No matter what has happened the year before, you can’t help but go into a new season full of hope and optimism, and that’s what makes friendlies so joyous.
It’s the intrigue, the new signings, the new manager, the new kit. All of it coming together piece by piece, friendly by friendly.
We know the Open is on, and so is the cricket, and we haven’t forgotten the Tour de France, but in addition to all that wonderful sport, this weekend sees a number of the Premier League’s heavyweights begin and some teams continue, their pre-season prep.
We’ve had a quick glance at the ones you should keep an eye on…
Wigan v Liverpool – Sunday
Jurgen Klopp isn’t hanging around as he prepares for his first-full season at the Liverpool helm.
The trip to Wigan will be the Reds’ third pre-season game, having beaten neighbours Tranmere 1-0 and Fleetwood 5-0.
The game at Highbury was particularly notable for the fine performance of new arrival Marko Grujic. Keep an eye on the Serbian should he play versus Wigan, with many tipping him up to be the new Steven Gerrard.
Wigan v Man United – Saturday
Wigan are a busy side this weekend and 24 hours before they play Liverpool, the Latics open Man United’s account under Jose Mourinho.
With a trip to China next week, it’s unclear if Jose will feature Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly or Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but this is a must-watch for United fans as a new dawn beckons.
Rapid Vienna v Chelsea – Saturday
Antonio Conte gets his Chelsea era underway in the Austrian capital.
Rapid Vienna finished second last season, and have already won six straight pre-season games. The hosts have a new manager and it’s a sell-out game, so this should be a very sturdy test for the Blues and their new gaffer.
FC Cincinnati v Crystal Palace – Sunday
Alan Pardew’s Palace got their campaign underway with a 0-0 draw versus Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.
Part two of the Eagles’ three-game USA adventure sees them play FC Cincinnati. Expect Andros Townsend and James Tomkins to feature again, having made their unofficial debuts for Palace versus the Union.
Burton Albion v Stoke City – Saturday
Mark Hughes’ Potters make the relatively short trip to Burton’s Pirelli Stadium for their opener.
Much like their transfer activity, Stoke’s pre-season is quite short at four games, so expect plenty of big names to feature against Nigel Clough’s Championship debutants.
Doncaster v Middlesbrough – Saturday
The trip to Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium is just the second of three scheduled pre-season fixtures for Middlesbrough, as they prepare for their return to the Premier League.
With the club making a host of impressive signings this summer, Aitor Karanka may use this chance to field a few of them in what should be a tougher test than the 6-0 win over York last week.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.