As the new football season edges closer, we’ve got 10 key dates for your calendar…
From the first round of Champions League qualifying to Barcelona against Premier League champions Leicester City, there’s plenty to whet your appetite before the league campaign gets under way.
Let’s take a look at what’s to come…
June 28 – August 24 – Champions League qualifying
That’s right. Euro 2016 may not have ended but the first European club football fixtures of the 2016/17 season kicked-off on Tuesday, with British representation in the Champions League in the form of the Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints.
A thought can be spared for the players involved as the majority of European footballers relax on the beach.
August 3 – Barcelona v Leicester City
A year ago Leicester were pitting their wits against the likes of Lincoln City and Mansfield Town in preseason, and little did they know it would be the prelude to one of the greatest achievements in English football history.
Twelve months on and the scene has changed slightly for the newly crowned champions, as their annual season warm-up now includes an invitation to the International Champions Cup and a match against Barcelona – ten days before the start of the Premier League season.
August 5-7 – Football League returns
The first weekend of August brings the return of the Football League and the first competitive fixtures of the 2016/2017 English calendar.
The evening of August 5 brings us the first match of the Championship season as Newcastle begin their campaign at Fulham, a Premier League fixture as recently as 2014, and August 7 sees Aston Villa open their first second-tier campaign for 38 years, away to Sheffield Wednesday.
August 7 – Community Shield – Leicester City v Manchester United
Alongside the opening weekend of the Football League season is the Community Shield, the annual clash between the Premier League champions and the FA Cup winners.
The 2016 edition brings together Leicester and Man Utd, in what will be Jose Mourinho’s first competitive match in charge and first shot at silverware.
August 9 – English Football League Cup first round
The newly re-branded English Football League Cup begins with all teams from the Championship, League One and League Two involved.
It will be a change of scenery for five-time winners Aston Villa, who travel to Luton, while it will be welcomed by Grimsby Town, back in the Football League for the first time since 2010. They travel to Derby County for their first cup fixture.
August 13 – First day of the Premier League season
A date for the diary of every football fan across the country, August’s second weekend brings the return of the Premier League. Will Leicester be able to carry on their title-winning form? How will Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho fare on opposing sides in Manchester? Can Jurgen Klopp return Liverpool to former glory? Many questions will be answered over the course of the next eight months and the first round of fixtures brings a tasty looking tie between Liverpool and Arsenal.
August 21 – La Liga kick-off
Spain’s elite begin their league campaign a week after those in England.
From August to May we shall see if Luis Enrique continues Barcelona’s domestic dominance with a third straight Spanish crown but Diego Simeone and Zinedine Zidane will be looking to topple the reigning champions.
And after Leicester last season, perhaps another side can spring a surprise? It all adds up to a very exciting season.
Week commencing August 29 – English Football League Trophy
The trophy has traditionally been a great chance of silverware for teams competing in League One and Two but it takes on a whole new format this season.
The introduction of a regional group stage – sixteen groups of four across the country – replaces the original first knockout round and 16 as yet undecided U21 sides from Premier League clubs compete in the trophy for the first time too.
Two teams from each of the 16 first-round groups will advance to the second round.
August 31 – Transfer Deadline Day
Keenly anticipated by football fans across the country, August 31 brings the final day of the English football transfer window.
Once again, it is sure to involve any number of clubs straining to get their last-minute deals over the line before the deadline passes.
September 4-6 – World Cup 2018 qualifiers
Whether your country is the best in Europe, a perennial underachiever or didn’t qualify at all, none of it matters when dreams of potential glory return.
It’s the hope that gets you.