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Forget Messi and Ronaldo: Piatek leads top leagues in goals

FC United
 By Kevin Palmer

Preseason fixtures not to be missed

Those of you suffering from a World Cup hangover will not have to wait too long before you are offered the chance to get your teeth -- no pun intended Luis Suarez -- into some fascinating preseason games for Europe's top clubs.

Transfer business has been brisk already this summer with the biggest clubs in Spain and England splashing the cash to ensure they have recruited star names before they jet off on preseason tours.

The eagerness to see Alexis Sanchez in an Arsenal shirt, Ander Herrera pulling on a Manchester United kit and Toni Kroos in a Real Madrid jersey should ensure bumper crowds before the big kickoff of the domestic leagues next month.

The chance to see Real Madrid stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in action versus other top European club sides should help fill seats around the U.S. for the International Champions Cup.

The American Invasion

For so many years, English Premier League clubs made preseason trips to the Far East a priority in their bid to expand their global brand. But the United States appears to be the destination of choice for the big hitters from London, Manchester and Liverpool.

Louis van Gaal has barely come down from the high of guiding Holland to an impressive third-place finish at the World Cup finals in Brazil last weekend, and he is already embarking on transatlantic flights once again as he gets his teeth into life as Old Trafford chief.

After a friendly against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, July 23, United will take part in the International Champions Cup competition, which will feature stages in six cities across North America; Van Gaal's men are set to take on a Roma side likely to feature their new signing, Ashley Cole, in Denver on July 26, before games against Inter Milan in Washington, D.C., on July 29, and Real Madrid at the "Big House" in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on August 2.

Summer transfer window roundup

- Premier League: Team-by-team ins and outs
- Transfer Centre: All the done deals
- Marcotti: Mind-boggling transfers
- Delaney: What did we learn on deadline day?
- Horncastle: European transfer grades
- Smith: Transfers more important than the game?
- Macintosh: We worship goals, not balance sheets

United's neighbours Liverpool are also taking part in the same American series, with new signings Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert set to take part in a game against Olympiacos at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 27. They will then face Manchester City at New York's Yankee Stadium on August 30, before a rematch of their famous 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan in Charlotte on August 2.

Premier League champions City will also take on AC Milan in Pittsburgh on July 27 and Olympiacos in Minneapolis on August 2, in fixtures that will look to tap into the huge enthusiasm for soccer in the U.S. following the World Cup exploits of Jurgen Klinsmann and his USMNT heroes in Brazil.

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal are set to take on Gunners hero Thierry Henry and his New York Red Bulls side in a glamour friendly at Red Bull Arena on July 26, while their north-London neighbours Tottenham are also heading to North America for a trio of warm-up matches, with one of those coming against former striker Jermain Defoe and his FC Toronto side on July 24.

Key European club fixtures

French Ligue 1 -- Aug. 8
FA Community Shield: Manchester City vs. Arsenal -- Aug. 10
German Super Cup: Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich -- Aug. 13
English Premier League -- Aug. 16
Spanish Super Cup: Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid -- Aug. 19 and 22
Spanish La Liga/German Bundesliga -- Aug. 23
Italian Serie A -- Aug. 30

Bayern Munich can also be added to the star-studded list of clubs coming to the U.S., as they have a game against an MLS All-Star team on August 6, with many of Germany's World Cup-winning heroes set to play.

Chelsea have bucked the trend to travel to America this summer, with boss Jose Mourinho preferring to avoid long-distance travel for his players after most of them played in the World Cup finals. Barcelona appear to have followed a similar policy, as they prepare to play some lower-profile matches closer to home.

Friendlies On Home Soil

While clubs are reported to collect huge sums from playing in preseason friendly games away from home, most managers like to get one game on home soil under their belt before the real action gets underway.

Arsenal have championed this approach with their long-running Emirates Cup tournament staged at their north-London home. With Benfica and Monaco on their guest list for this year's competition, it should attract a big crowd thanks to the probable Emirates Stadium debut of Alexis Sanchez following his move from Barcelona.

The Gunners also have a game against Premier League champions Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in their preseason schedule to look forward to. Arsenal return to the scene of their FA Cup triumph last May to take on Manuel Pellegrini's side in the Community Shield match on Sunday, August 10.

Bayern Munich and Borrusia Dortmund will play in the German version of that fixture in Dortmund on August 13, while there will be plenty of eyes trained on the two legs of the Spanish Super Cup clash between Spanish capital city rivals Real and Atletico Madrid.

The latter of the duo will been keen to prove they can repeat their successes of last season despite the departure of some star names during the summer, while Real Madrid will look to parade new signing Toni Kroos.

Arguably the most eagerly-anticipated preseason fixture will come at Old Trafford on August 12, when a sell-out crowd is expected for Louis van Gaal's first home match as the new Manchester United manager against Valencia.

The Key Preseason Dates

International Champions Cup featuring Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Olympiacos and Roma in six North American cities -- July 24 to August 4.

Emirates Cup featuring Arsenal, Benfica and Monaco at Emirates Stadium -- August 2 and 3.

FA Community Shield: Manchester City versus Arsenal at Wembley Stadium -- August 10.

German Super Cup: Borussia Dortmund versus Bayern Munich in Dortmund -- August 13

Spanish Super Cup: Real Madrid versus Atletico Madrid -- first leg August 20, at Bernabeu, second leg August 24, at Vincente Calderon.

Season Kickoff Dates

French Ligue 1: August 8
English Premier League: August 16
German Bundesliga: August 22
Spanish League: August 23
Italian Serie A: August 31