If you’re a football fan who’s suffering from withdrawal symptoms and wondering how you’re going to make it to the start of the new Premiership season in August, don’t worry. There’s plenty to keep you occupied between now and then, both on and off the pitch, to stop you from having to turn to cricket for your sporting thrills.
The Olympics are coming
12 women’s and 16 men’s teams are competing in the Rio Olympics with the first matches being played on Wednesday August 3rd. In the group stage some of the highlight matches to look out for the women are USA v France and Brazil v Sweden. For the men Argentina v Portugal, who defied Euro 2016 odds to win in France, promises to be a fascinating clash. It will also be interesting to see how Brazil manage to bounce back after their embarrassing exit from the Copa America earlier in the year.
It’s pre-season friendlies season
Each year Premiership teams seem to get more and more ambitious in their pre-season activity often justifying it as a way to spread their brand identity internationally. This year is no exception and it is even being formalised in a worldwide event called the International Champions’ Tournament which aims to bring together the top teams from the world’s best leagues.
Organised by New York-based promoters Relevant Sports, among the matches being played are Leicester City v Barcelona in Stockholm, Spurs v Atletico Madrid in Melbourne and, strangest of all, a Manchester derby in the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.
In fact only two premiership clubs, Middlesbrough and Watford are restricting their pre-season friendlies to the UK this season. Given the concerns that too much international travel can leave players drained before the season starts this may be a good idea.
The run-up to the new season, and the looming closure of the transfer window, also generates a great deal of excitement, especially if it’s your own club that’s involved.
This year all eyes will be on the two new managers hoping to make their marks at their respective Manchester clubs – and not just by winning against their local rivals in Beijing. For Mourinho’s Manchester United rumours abound about who he’s hoping to bring to the club with Paul Pogba’s reported £100 million move from Juventus being the most high profile. He’s also said to have his eyes on Cesc Fabregas from his former club, Chelsea.
Over at the Etihad Stadium Guardiola is rumoured to be trying to lure Everton defender John Stones in order to shore up the team’s defence. Schalke winger Leroy Sane is also said to be in his sights.
Get ready for the 2018 World Cup
Last, but not least, the 2018 World Cup qualifiers get under way in September with all the home nations and the Republic of Ireland involved. With England trying to put the horrors of Euro 2016 behind them and Wales aiming to build on their success it should make for some very interesting games.
So take heart, there’s plenty to enjoy before the 2016-17 season begins in earnest – and then there’ll be the tantalising prospect seeing whether Leicester can beat the bookies again to claim the title two years running.