With the new campaign fast approaching, we take a look at the games which could give us a clue as to how football's biggest names are warming upCOMMENT
By Joe Doyle
With Euro 2012 done and dusted and the Olympic football tournament in full swing, the domestic campaign is well and truly starting to rear its head.
The transfer window has provided some interesting action; with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Shinji Kagawa and Lukas Podolski all securing high-profile moves.
And so this final round of pre-season fixtures will allow us to see just how these new acquisitions fit in - and what chance each club has of challenging for honours next term.
Here, Goal.com 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.
|BARCELONA V MANCHESTER UNITED
WHEN & WHERE: August 5, Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg.
WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: United will hope to step up their pre-season intensity back in Europe, with Sir Alex Ferguson confirming that the stars who were on display at Euro 2012 will feature at some point on the mini-tour of Scandanavia.
And who better to come up against than the Spanish giants who have denied them Champions League success on their previous two final appearances?
The Catalan outfit could be a different prospect under new coach Tito Vilanova and so it could be interesting to see whether Sir Alex can get one over on a new-look Barcelona, ahead of a new European campaign.
PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: Shinji Kagawa is still the man to watch having made only fleeting appearances so far in the club's tour of South Africa, and he will hope to add to his solitary goal thus far.
|VALENCIA V TOTTENHAM
WHEN & WHERE: August 9, Mestalla, Valencia.
WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: Just how Andre Villas-Boas' Tottenham revolution is shaping up will be tested for the final time ahead of the new season in Spain.
Spurs will hope to clinch a return to the Champions League at least next season and coming up against opponents who regularly feature in the competition is ideal preparation for that challenge.
PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: New signing Jan Vertonghen will hope to cement his status as the north London club's first-choice centre-half after arriving from Ajax with a reputation as a classy stopper.
Whether he can cut it in the English top flight will be hard to deduce from a game against the La Liga giants, but Mauricio Pellegrini's men have the quality to ensure he is tested.
|LIVERPOOL V LEVERKUSEN
WHEN & WHERE: August 12, Anfield, Liverpool.
WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: Liverpool's final fixture of pre-season comes against the German side against Anfield and will doubtless be an important one for Brendan Rodgers.
The game will mark the final opportunity for the Northern Irishman to tweak his Reds team, as they hope to get off to a flyer against West Brom in the Premier League just six days later.
That Liverpool legend Sami Hyypia is the head coach of the opposition ensures this fixture is of particular interest to the club's fans, but it is reassurances over the future, rather than the past, that they will most be looking for.
PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: Fabio Borini represents Liverpool's sole signing thus far in the transfer window, and with Luis Suarez likely to either be in action or resting from the Olympics with Uruguay, the Italian could be set for a first start at Anfield.
Having worked with Rodgers at Chelsea and Swansea, he is likely to know exactly what the manager wants from him, and it wouldn't be too far-fetched to see him hit the ground running at his new club.
|ARSENAL V KOLN
WHEN & WHERE: August 12, Rhein Energie Stadium, Koln.
WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: Arsene Wenger has stated that his two new strikers, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, will probably not be ready to start the Premier League season on time. Thus, it is likely that they will get plenty of action in this pre-season game as the Frenchman looks to get his signings settled.
It will, of course, be the pair's first action in an Arsenal shirt, and it will be interesting to see how Wenger fits both forwards into the side - and indeed, whether captain Robin van Persie makes the trip.
PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR: It is an instant homecoming for Podolski against his former employers, and he will be eager not only to get some match fitness, but to put on a show for fans of both clubs.
|CHELSEA V MANCHESTER CITY
WHEN & WHERE: August 12, Villa Park, Birmingham
WHY IT’S WORTH A WATCH: The Community Shield doesn't tend to offer a great hint as to where the Premier League title will end up, but it rarely fails to deliver as a season opener (see last season's 3-2 win for Manchester United against City, having been two goals down at half-time).
There has been a feast of football this summer with Euro 2012 and the Olympics, but it is always good to get back to the rough and tumble of the Premier League. And, though this won't have quite the same intensity as a regular season game, neither side will want to lose face ahead of an exciting new season.
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 ultra-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 and United.
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