Football clubs are prepping for the remainder of the season by playing some club friendlies.
The footballing calendar has been jam-packed this year, with a very short six-week break between the end of the 2021/22 club season and the beginning of the current 2022/23 season. This was purely due to the change in the dates of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar which was moved from to the winter due to weather and topographical circumstances. However, the current success of the World Cup in Qatar with numerous upsets and the rise of the Asian and African team’s mettle to match the legacy-holding nations has global football in good stead with nearly two billion viewership as per the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino. Clubs are preparing for the remainder of the season by playing a few club friendlies.
With the return of club football starting from the traditional Boxing Day games of the Premier League, here is a rundown of how clubs are gearing up for the return of their league season post-Qatar.
Manchester United vs Real Betis, 10th December, Saturday
Erik ten Hag has taken his 5th placed Manchester United squad to sunny Spain instead of the middle-east where most of the footballing action of the World is taking place. This might come off as a relief to the Man United hierarchy who’ve been keeping tabs on the steady progress being made under their new Dutch Manager. Important players are still in Doha, competing in the World Cup such as the likes of Rashford, Casemiro, Varane, etc. and will hope for a better performance against Real Betis in Seville after a 4-2 loss against Cadiz on the 8th of December.
Liverpool vs Lyon, 11th December 2022, Sunday
Liverpool has travelled with a 33-man squad to Dubai, UAE. Some of the big names still in action in Qatar at the FIFA World Cup are the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Alisson, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold etc. However, they still have a strong contingent who’ve arrived in UAE with the likes of Mohammed Salah, Luiz Diaz, Thiago etc., who’ll be key towards their resumption of the Premier League campaign right after the World Cup, where they are currently 6th in the standings.
They’re participating in the Dubai Super Cup alongside Lyon, and AC Milan and both games are scheduled to go to penalties after full-time to prepare for sudden-death scenarios later in their knockout stage adventures in Europe.
Chelsea vs Aston Villa, 11th December 2022, Sunday
Graham Potter’s Blues will be warming up in the capital city of UAE Abu Dhabi, also memorable to their fans due to the recent Club World Cup trophy victory back in February, under former manager Thomas Tuchel. The former Brighton boss will be looking to bed in well into the Stamford Bridge hierarchy having been appointed as the new Chelsea boss back in September. The results haven’t been spectacular but have steadily kept them ticking in all key competitions with an FA Cup tie against Man City on the 8th of January, besides their last 16 tie against Borussia Dortmund and their Premier League priorities. The game against Aston Villa will be the without some of the key men in the World Cup in Qatar including Thiago Silva, Mount, Sterling, Havertz etc, and hope to improve upon their current 8th-place league standings moving forward.
Arsenal vs AC Milan,13th December 2022, Tuesday & Arsenal vs Juventus, 17th December 2022, Saturday
Premier League leaders Arsenal will be looking to revitalise their high-octane start to the season having the surprise package of the season having won 12 of their 14 league games and holding a 5-point lead at the summit, over 2nd placed Manchester City. Key man, Gabriel Jesus, has sustained a knee injury whilst playing in Qatar and will be a huge blow with three months out. However, Eddie Nketiah looks like he can step up as they participate in the Dubai Cup before returning to face Juventus at the Emirates on the 17th of December. Other notable names in the World Cup presence include Tomiyasu, Saliba, Martinelli, Saka etc.
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AC Milan vs Liverpool, 16th December 2022, Friday
AC Milan will be looking to regain their form to resume their domestic title defence campaign where they have an extended break until the Serie A resumes on the 4th of January 2022, with key men Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud still active in the World Cup. They’re currently second in the Italian standings behind leaders Napoli on 33 points after 15 games, 7 points adrift of the leaders. They’re participating in the Dubai Cup against their historic European rivals Liverpool and it promises to be a spectacle at the Al-Maktoum Stadium, in Dubai on the 17th of December.
Manchester City vs Girona, 17th December 2022, Saturday
Manchester City has touched base in Abu Dhabi, which they’ve frequently done in the past as part of their ownership group is based out of there, besides the warm-weather training, especially available in the middle-east. The Citizens have the most amount of players represented at the World Cup in the Premier League, and Pep Guardiola has only a handful of 1st timers including Riyad Mahrez, Erling Haaland etc who he can train besides most of the youth team travelling contingent. With a key Carabao Cup fixture against Liverpool on the 22nd of December, Pep’s men will face off against their sister Spanish club Girona at the City Academy Stadium on the 17th of December as the only preparation game before the season resumes.
Tottenham Hotspur vs OGC Nice, 21st December 2022, Wednesday
Antonio Conte’s side has been keeping up with their London rivals & toppers Arsenal despite underwhelming performances from his side, having notched 29 points from 15 games, 8 points behind the leaders, in fourth place. The former Juventus boss side hasn’t found their rhythm from last season where they were scoring goals for fun and had pipped Arsenal to the fourth Champions League spot in the very last stage, with heavy criticism towards defensive and sluggish performances, despite the results.
However Spurs fans should be optimistic as key players Richarlison, Kane, Son, Lloris etc have all looked in really good form at the World Cup and will be hoping for entertaining football to resume their season shortly after their final friendly game against OGC Nice, on the 21st of December, in London.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Quevilly, 21st December 2022. Wednesday
Qatari-owned PSG has a lot of International stars still heavily involved in the latter stages of the FIFA World Cup, including their star frontline trio of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar. Manager Christophe Galtier plans to give the World Cup players a few days off after their country’s elimination and these men will be amongst those rested. However, PSG has returned to training at the base in Paris with Sergio Ramos, Marco Verratti and Gianluigi Donnarumma etc returning.
The French Champions return to action in their Ligue 1 title defence when they play Strasbourg on the 28th of December, 2022. However, they play a couple of friendlies against second-division Quevilly on the 21st of December, where a few early World Cup exiters may feature.
Barcelona vs Juventus, 22nd December 2022, Thursday
The Blaugrana will be kicking off things in La Liga against City rivals Espanyol on 31st December 2022, after the World Cup. However, they’ll be warming up to their fellow Europa League competitors on December 22 at the Allianz Stadium, after an underwhelming performance in the Champions League group stage. Also, with Spain’s shock early exit to Morocco in the last 16 stages of the World Cup, manager Xavi will hope that his Barcelona stars will rest and recover well before joining their club sides in time for the resumption of their season, without any injuries. Other key men still playing in the World Cup in Qatar are Ousmane Dembele, Raphinha, Frankie De Jong etc.
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