Premier League pre-season starts NOW and stars have points to prove

Forget the Euros… it’s only 31 days until the Premier League restarts – and pre-season’s already underway! So will Van Dijk be the same after injury? Can Aubameyang prove his worth for Arsenal? And is there a way back for Lingard at Man United?

  • Italy beat England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday
  • Now attention turns to the Premier League – which is due to start in just 31 days
  • As a result, pre-season is getting underway for many top clubs in the country
  • West Ham have already played their first fixture – drawing 2-2 with Dundee 
  • Sportsmail looks at each team’s player who will have to impress this summer   

It was heartbreak at Wembley on Sunday night as Italy beat England on penalties in the final of Euro 2020.

The Three Lions had hoped to put an end to the country’s 55-year wait for silverware but it wasn’t to be, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missing in the shootout. 

But while football fans around the country come to terms with the defeat, they can also start to look ahead to the return of the Premier League.

Italy beat England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday night

Gareth Southgate hugs Bukayo Saka after the Arsenal star missed the decisive spot-kick

It’s just 31 days until the new season kicks off with Brentford vs Arsenal on Friday, August 13, and pre-season is already underway again at top-flight clubs.

Most clubs are still without their full squads because of the Euros and the Copa America, but some friendlies have already taken place as teams gear up for a season which should be played in front of full capacity crowds once again.

Here, Sportsmail looks at each Premier League club’s confirmed pre-season fixtures and the players with the biggest point to prove before the new campaign kicks off.

Attention turns to the Premier League, with Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk eyeing a return to fitness

July 13: Hibernian (A)

July 17: Rangers (A)

July 25: Inter Milan, Camping World Stadium, Orlando

July 28: Everton or Millonarios, Camping World Stadium, Orlando

August 1: Chelsea (H)

August 8: Tottenham Hotspur (A)

Point to prove – Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal’s main man scored just 10 goals last season, shortly after penning a new long-term deal to stay at the Emirates Stadium. 

Arsenal have many talented youngsters looking for game time next term, including forward Gabriel Martinelli, and they don’t have European football as a means to offer those opportunities. 

Aubameyang needs to show early on in pre-season he isn’t just cashing in a retirement cheque and that he is ready to get back to the form that made him the Premier League’s joint top scorer in 2019.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang needs to prove his Arsenal worth after a disappointing 2020-21

Aston Villa

July 21: Walsall (A)

July 24: Stoke (A)

July 28: Nottingham Forest (H)

July 31: Bristol City (A)

August 7: Sevilla (H)

Point to prove – Ashley Young

Villa’s pre-season matches get underway relatively late, but it should be enough time for Ashley Young to get up to speed on his Premier League return. 

Following his release from Inter Milan, the former Manchester United and England star is back at Villa Park for a second time having left for Old Trafford a decade ago following a four-year spell. 

He turns 36 in July and he will need to show he can still perform at the top level by at least impressing in the friendlies lined up.

After 10 years away Ashley Young has returned to Aston Villa for a second spell at the club


July 17: AFC Wimbledon (A)

July 20: Boreham Wood (A)

July 28: Manchester United (A)

Point to prove – Ivan Toney

To get things straight, Toney does not have a point to prove to the Bees given his 31 goals last term helped fire them into the Premier League for the very first time. But the top flight is also a graveyard for strikers who couldn’t stop scoring in the Championship but found the step up far too tough. 

A pre-season game against Manchester United at the end of the month will be a welcome test for the 25-year-old who previously failed to impress at Newcastle United between 2015 and 2018 with just two Premier League appearances and plenty of loan moves further down the pyramid.

Ivan Toney will be keen to show he has what it takes to succeed in the Premier League


July 24: Rangers (A)

Point to prove –  Danny Welbeck

There’s an excellent striker in Danny Welbeck and had his career not been blighted by such rotten luck with injuries, he may still be involved in the England set-up. 

Now 30 years old, the international door has likely closed for the former Arsenal and Manchester United striker but Graham Potter slowly got him back to excellent form last term. 

After missing the first six games at the start of the year with a knee injury he ended the season with a respectable four goals from his last nine games. 

Welbeck must use pre-season to prove that he can be relied upon to spearhead Graham Potter’s attack.

Danny Welbeck (left) will hope to prove his form and fitness to manager Graham Potter


July 24: Oldham (A)

July 27: Blackpool (A)

July 31: Nott’m Forest (A)

Point to prove – Nick Pope

Injury robbed Pope of the chance to travel with the England squad this summer at Euro 2020, as instead he underwent knee surgery at the end of May, ruling him out of Gareth Southgate’s side at the European Championship. 

Burnley only have three games lined up for pre-season but are likely to increase that, and the 29-year-old goalkeeper will be out to show he can still be relied on between the sticks following his return from surgery.

Nick Pope will hope his summer knee surgery has not hampered him too much on his return


August 1: Arsenal (A)

August 4: Tottenham Hotspur (H)

August 11: Villarreal (Super Cup) 

Point to prove –  Tammy Abraham

Even accounting for his Champions League winner’s medal, it’s not been the greatest of years for the striker even if he did finish as Chelsea’s joint top goalscorer last term. 

Since Thomas Tuchel arrived to replace the sacked Frank Lampard in January, Abraham has hardly featured and struggles to even make the matchday squad, putting doubts over his long term future at Stamford Bridge. 

It has also seen him lose his place in the England squad, but while many of his first-team colleagues are away at the Euros, he has a chance to impress Tuchel at close quarters from the start of pre-season.

Tammy Abraham will be looking to force his way into Thomas Tuchel’s plans pre-season

Crystal Palace

July 16: Portsmouth, St George’s Park

July 17: Walsall (A)

July 23: Stevenage (A)

July 24: Ipswich Town (A)

July 27: Charlton Athletic (H)

August 7: Watford (H) 

Point to prove – Jack Butland

In truth most of what’s left are on trial at Selhurst Park following a huge summer turnover which has seen the departure of Roy Hodgson as manager as well as 11 first-team players following the expiry of their contracts. 

Looking for a fresh start under new boss Patrick Vieira though will be Jack Butland, who three years ago was an England goalkeeper at the World Cup and these days can be found picking out splinters on the Palace bench. 

Now is the time to convince Vieira he should be No 1 at the Eagles as the 28-year-old vies with the impressive Vicente Guaita for a place in goal.

Jack Butland will hope a refresh at Crystal Palace will give him more first team opportunities


July 10: 3-0 win vs Accrington Stanley (H)

July 25: Millonarios, Camping World Stadium, Orlando

July 28: Arsenal or Inter Milan, Camping World Stadium, Orlando

August 7: Manchester United (A)

Point to prove – James Rodriguez

A shock omission from Colombia’s Copa America squad means Rodriguez will be back for the start of pre-season for Everton, but how long will he stick around for? 

The departure of Carlo Ancelotti has thrown his Toffees future into doubt following a season where he impressed on the pitch but was frustratingly often injured with calf issues, playing just 23 league games. 

Can he now prove his fitness, will he still be motivated under new boss Rafa Benitez, and will the former Reds boss be convinced by his pre-season contribution?

After an up and down first year at Everton, fans will be hoping to see more of James Rodriguez

Leeds United

July 27: Guiseley (A)

July 28: Blackburn (A)

July 30:  Fleetwood (A)

Point to prove – Patrick Bamford

No one really has anything to prove at Leeds United after their first season back in the top flight saw them record an excellent top-half finish in ninth. 

Patrick Bamford exceeded all expectations with 17 goals across the season, but he may be feeling a little hard done by that he wasn’t a serious contender to feature in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this summer. 

In truth, Southgate’s call has largely paid off given the Three Lions’ success but Bamford will already at the start of pre-season be out to prove he should be a more serious contender to feature at international level, where he has yet to be capped. 

Patrick Bamford enjoyed a sensational season back in the top flight with Leeds last term

Leicester City

July 24: Burton Albion (A)

July 28: Wycombe Wanderers (A)

July 31: Queens Park Rangers (A)

August 7: Manchester City, Wembley (Community Shield)

Point to prove – James Maddison

England admittedly have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to attacking midfielders but for James Maddison to not even have been a serious contender to feature at Euro 2020 suggests improvements are still needed from the Leicester star. 

He ended the season completely out of form with no goals or assists in the Premier League in the last seven matches, having recovered from injury, as Leicester agonisingly slipped out of the Champions League places. 

Foxes supporters will hope that pre-season will start showing that the 24-year-old is getting back to his best. 

James Maddison will hope a pre-season kick-start can put a poor end to 2020-21 behind him


July 20: Thirty-minute mini-games v FC Wacker Innsbruck and VfB Stuttgart

July 23: FSV Mainz (A)

July 29: Hertha BSC (A)

Point to prove – Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool’s centre-back star missed most of last season after being victim of a horror challenge from Everton keeper Jordan Pickford in October. 

It’s no coincidence that Liverpool’s Premier League title defence collapsed later in the season once his and many injuries to other team-mates left the Reds’ first team decimated. But with Van Dijk now back to return for pre-season training, just how much long-term damage has he suffered? 

Will the Reds see the welcome return of the colossus centre-back that brought them Champions League and Premier League success or will his best days now be behind him? It’s a big summer ahead for the Dutchman. 

Van Dijk has been out since October following a rash challenge from Jordan Pickford

Manchester City

August 7: Leicester City, Wembley (Community Shield) 

Point to prove – Fernandinho 

There won’t be many faces back at the start of pre-season at the Premier League champions given many have been involved at the European Championship and the Copa America. 

Skipper Fernandinho was also nearly another absentee at City’s training ground but only because he was close to departing the club having been put on a list of players to be released. 

Now 36 years old, he won’t be expected to show his best every game but he does still need to show Pep Guardiola he was worth taking on for one extra year and that he is not finished at the top level just yet. 

Skipper Fernandinho committed late on to another season at champions Manchester City

Manchester United

July 18: Derby (A) 

July 24: QPR (A)

July 28: Brentford (H)

July 31: Preston (A) 

August 7: Everton (H)

Point to prove – Jesse Lingard

In fairness to Lingard, he did much of his ‘point proving’ on the pitch last season while on loan West Ham United, impressing so much over the second half of the campaign that he nearly worked his way into England’s Euro 2020 squad. 

He was previously frozen out under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but will his burst of form at the London Stadium and a solid pre-season be enough for the United boss to give him another crack at the Red Devils first team?

Jesse Lingard will hope his West Ham loan spell can kick-start his Manchester United career

Newcastle United 

July 18: York City (A)

July 18: Harrogate Town (A)

July 23: Doncaster Rovers(A)

July 27: Rotherham United (A)

July 30: Burton Albion (A)

August 7: Norwich City (H)

Point to prove – Joelinton

Third time for lucky for the much maligned striker? His goals record was abysmal last term with four strikes from 31 matches. However, three of those came in his last eight games of the season, which compared with his strike rate up until that point was a radical improvement. 

Heading into his third campaign at St James’ Park maybe he has now finally settled in the North East and can start producing the form that convinced the club to splash out £40million for him. The hard work starts now. 

Joelinton showed signs of adapting to the Premier League late on during the 2020-21 season

Norwich City

July 16: King’s Lynn Town (A) 

July 20: Lincoln City (H)

July 23: Huddersfield Town (H)

July 28: Coventry (A)

July 31: Sheffield United (A)

August 3: Gillingham (H)

August 7: Newcastle United (A)

Point to prove – Todd Cantwell

Even as Norwich City rather weakly tumbled out of the Premier League a year ago, Todd Cantwell had impressed enough during the campaign to mark him out as a potential target for top-flight clubs. 

Unsurprisingly he was an important fixture again  in the Championship as the Canaries sealed a top-flight return for this season. 

This time though he has competition for midfield dominance at Carrow Road following the arrival of Billy Gilmour on loan from Chelsea, so pre-season will be key for the 23-year-old to convince Daniel Farke he cannot be the one to make way for the Scotland starlet.

Norwich City midfielder Todd Cantwell may have a fight for his first-team place next term


July 27: Cardiff (A)

July 31: Swansea City (A)

Point to prove – Theo Walcott

Having secured a free transfer from Everton, Walcott is now back to where it all started for him with a permanent contract at St Mary’s. 

Now 32 years old, he scored three times and produced three assists across 21 games last term in a solid season on the south coast while on loan. 

He can ill afford to coast now though, and Ralph Hasenhuttl will be keen for him to get a full Saints pre-season under him so he can be firing to help boost Saints’ attack this term.

Theo Walcott has earned a move to Southampton after impressing on loan last term

Tottenham Hotspur

July 17: Leyton Orient (A)

July 21: Colchester (A) 

July 28: MK Dons (A)

August 4: Chelsea (A)

August 8: Arsenal (H)

Point to prove – Dele Alli

Given Tottenham’s total collapse in the last couple of years, most of the players are on some sort of watch, but none more so perhaps than Dele Alli. 

The midfielder was a key World Cup star for England just three years ago and since then has regressed in the Spurs ranks. 

He lost form badly in the latter stages of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign, lost his first-team place under successor Jose Mourinho and is now surely on his final strike under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo ahead of what looks like being a testing campaign at the north London side. 

Dele Alli has struggled to find his best form at Tottenham Hotspur in recent times


July 24: West Bromwich Albion (H)

July 27: Stevenage (A)

July 31: Nantes (H)

August 7: Udinese (H)

Point to prove – Danny Rose

Rose was playing for England at the World Cup three years ago, now he enters a new Premier League campaign having not played a senior game of football in a year. 

Banished from the Spurs team after a bitter fall-out with manager Mourinho, no one needs a pre-season quite like the left-back to get up to full fitness again. 

Watford’s list of tough fixtures will give him decent minutes to prove himself as the 31-year-old looks to get his career back on track.

Danny Rose will be looking to revive his career at Watford after his release from Spurs

West Ham United

July 9: 2-2 draw vs Dundee (A)

July 13: Leyton Orient (A)

July 13: Northampton (A)

July 21: Reading (A)

July 24: Celtic (A)

Point to prove – Said Benrahma

Benrahma was a late arrival at West Ham last term, after making the step up from then Championship side Brentford at the end of the transfer window in October. 

Although he featured prominently during an incredible season for the Hammers, in which they secured Europa League football, there are doubts over his fitness. He played 30 Premier League games but on only two of those occasions did he complete 90 minutes. 

With a packed European schedule coming up this term, David Moyes needs his first-team stars fit and that starts with a full pre-season.

Said Benrahma needs to prove his fitness across 90 minutes for West Ham United

Wolverhampton Wanderers

July 17: Crewe (A)

July 24: Real Betis (A)

July 26: Las Palmas (A) 

July 31: Stoke (A)

August 1: Coventry (A)

August 7: Celta Vigo (H)

Point to prove – Raul Jimenez

The striker’s horror head injury suffered against Arsenal in November caused him to miss the rest of the season with a fractured skull, and the long-term effect of that has yet to be seen. 

Understandably there will be doubts whether the Mexican striker will be the same key forward he was before the incident at the Emirates Stadium, having scored four goals from the first 10 games of the season. 

New boss Bruno Lage, Wolves supporters and most importantly Jimenez himself will be hoping so.

Raul Jimenez has been working hard to get back to fitness following his fractured skull

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