The Premier League is back. La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga. They’re all back.
From the moment the red and white confetti began carpeting the turf at Wembley in celebration of Bayern Munich’s stirring Champions League final victory back in May, football fans across the globe have waited with mounting anticipation for the return of the domestic European leagues.
With only pre-season friendlies, fresh kit releases and salacious transfer rumours to keep them occupied during the off-season enthusiasts of the beautiful game have yearned for August and the promise of regular, world-class football.
But now that the moment has arrived the expectation doesn’t have to stop building.
Here are five reasons to keep an eye out for September.
1. The close of the transfer window.
Has Gareth Bale joined Real Madrid yet? Personally, I’ve lost interest.
What began as the most titillating transfer prospect of the year has devolved into a prolonged tug of war that’s seen more column inches than even Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. With fees as outlandish as £86 million being bandied around even diehard Tottenham fans are losing the resolve to hold onto the Welsh winger.
But come September 2 and the close of the transfer window the entire Bale saga will be put to bed, as will every other transfer wrangle we've seen this summer, so all the clubs, managers and players can concentrate on the task ahead in their respective leagues.
2. The Champions League group stage kicks off.
The UEFA Champions League is undeniably the world’s premier club competition, pitting the finest of Europe’s heavyweights against each other in gladiator-style combat from which there can only be one survivor. It’s where boys become men, minnows become heroes, and legends are born.
Domestic football is fantastic bit there’s something special about the UCL; the anthem alone sends shivers down the spines of players and fans the world over. And it all kicks off on September 17 as the group stage gets underway in the build-up to the final at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on May 24, 2014.
If that’s not enough to quench your thirst for European competition then there’s always the qualifying rounds being held as we speak, as well as the group stage draw in Monaco on August 29.
3. FIFA 14 is released.
Would September really be the same without the latest instalment of the hugely popular FIFA franchise? If you answered no then rest assured you’re not alone.
Each year millions of avid gamers worldwide trump up their hard earned cash for EA Sports’ eagerly anticipated annual offering and 2013 looks no more likely to buck this trend than Liverpool do to win the league.
With an updated Career Mode, additional Matchday features and the introduction of Co-op Seasons (as well as dozens of new licences) employers all across the globe are preparing for a serious spike in sick days come September 24.
4. PES 2014 is released.
Electronic Arts may hold the lion’s share of the virtual footballing market but FIFA isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; for the rest there’s Pro Evolution Soccer.
As a shameless FIFA fanatic, I confess I won’t be lining up to purchase PES 2014 when it hits the shelves on September 20 but that’s not to say plenty won’t, especially given Konami’s audacity to get the jump on EA by a whole week in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Take into consideration Pro Evolution’s completely redefined physics engine, improvements to player individuality and innovative TrueBall Tech, and competition between the two looks to be fierce once again this year.
5. Scintillating derbies.
We all love a local derby. The managerial mind-games, the fanatical tension, the gritty, no-holds-barred football; the first dates fans look for when fixture lists are released.
And let me tell you, September is shaping up to be a mouth-watering month for derbies.
It all kicks off on September 21 as the Etihad Stadium plays host to September’s showpiece event, the Manchester derby between champions Manchester United and their noisy neighbours from across the river, Manchester City.
The Citizens may have come out on top in regards to transfer activity but both have new managers at the helm and neither are outright title favourites this season, guaranteeing this to be one of the most hotly-contested Manchester derbies in recent years.
Stamford Bridge then takes the reigns with the West London derby between Chelsea and Fulham on September 21. On the same day Hamburg SV and Werder Bremen are set to contest the famous Nordderby in northern Germany.
Then there’s the Rome derby between Roma and Lazio a day later, and the Madrid derby at the Santiago Bernabeu a week after that.
On September 29 Torino plays host to Juventus in the Turin derby, the illustrious Derby della Mole, to round out an exhilarating month of adrenalin charged football fixtures.
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