Barcelona v Manchester United, Arsenal v Manchester City & the pre-season fixtures to watch out for

Euro 2012 may be over, but football fans do not need to wait until the new domestic season to get a look at how their team is shaping up
By Chris Myson

As Euro 2012 drew to a thrilling conclusion with Spain securing glory in their third successive major international tournament, many fans mourned the loss of football until the Premier League resumes.

The new campaign does not get under way until the middle of August and all of a sudden competitive action feels a long way away.

However, players may now be on a well-earned holiday after the Euros, but their clubs have well and truly started their preparations for the new term.

The transfer window has already opened and pre-season fixtures have been announced – with some getting under way in less than two weeks' time.

Here, looks at five of the best clashes to watch out for over the remainder of the summer before the leagues across Europe roll back into action.


WHEN & WHERE: July 25, Fenway Park, Boston.

WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: Two giants of the European game clash in Boston – but these are both sides who are very much in transition having sacked managers after underwhelming campaigns.

Brendan Rodgers and Zdenek Zeman have been brought in this summer, replacing Kenny Dalglish and Luis Enrique respectively. This clash will present an intriguing look at how each team is shaping up ahead of their kick-offs in the Premier League and Serie A.

PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: Steven Gerrard has had huge injury problems over the last 18 months, which has undoubtedly played a part in Liverpool’s decline in fortunes.

The talismanic skipper had a strong Euro 2012 campaign for England though, and will now be desperate to have a successful summer so he is in perfect shape for the new season.


WHEN & WHERE: July 27, Bird's Nest Stadium, Beijing

WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: Two Premier League rivals clash in what will be an interesting early test of Arsenal’s title credentials against the defending champions in the Olympic Stadium.

Are the Gunners building a squad to challenge Roberto Mancini’s men or are they destined for another season off the pace?

PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: Olivier Giroud is Arsene Wenger’s marquee signing and the friendlies will be a vital part of his bedding in process at the club.

Will he play alongside Robin van Persie, if the Dutchman is still at the club, and how will he adapt to playing alongside his new team-mates against tough opposition in Kompany & Co.


WHEN & WHERE: July 28, Sun Life Stadium, Miami

WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: The Champions League winners meet the seven-time European champions in a mouth-watering pre-season clash.

American fans will hope the match can live up to its billing, with a number of stars such as Fernando Torres and Zlatan Ibrahimovic likely to be on show.

PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: Chelsea trumped the continent’s biggest clubs to sign Eden Hazard this summer and all eyes will be on their new Belgian playmaker as he settles into life at his new club.

The confident ex-Lille man will be desperate to make a fast start to prove he is worth all the attention he received during a drawn-out transfer saga in which he also flirted with City & United.


August 8, Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg

WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: Barcelona and Manchester United – two of the world’s biggest clubs - previously clashed in the Champions League final in 2009 and 2011, with the stylish Catalans coming out on top on both occasions.

They also met in pre-season last year, where United gained a small element of revenge for those final defeats by winning 2-1 in the US, and they are set for a pre-season rematch in Gothenburg this summer.

PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: United have had creative problems in midfield over recent seasons, with many fans pointing to their lack of class in the middle of the pitch as being crucial to their failure to beat City to last season’s title.

Shinji Kagawa has been signed from Borussia Dortmund for £17 million and fans of the Red Devils will be desperate to get their first glimpse of  him in pre-season. How will he get on against the class of Barca?


WHEN & WHERE: August 9, Mestalla Stadium, Valencia

WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: It's all change at both clubs this summer. Andre Villas-Boas has replaced Harry Redknapp at White Hart Lane whilst Mauricio Pellegrino is the new head coach at Valencia, replacing Unai Emery.

This away trip will serve as a tough test for Villas-Boas' new charges, while the Spaniards will be keen to fare better than they did against Chelsea - when they were managed by the Portuguese boss - in last season's Champions League group stages.

PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: Roberto Soldado may have been snubbed by champions Spain for their Euro 2012 squad but he remains a consistent goalscorer and attacking threat in La Liga.

The 27-year-old is now reaching his peak years and will be eager to make a good impression against English opposition and ensure he can hit the ground running next season.

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