CARSON, CA - AUGUST 02: Cristiano Ronaldo #7 of Real Madrid fights for the ball with Andrew Boyens #29 Los Angeles Galaxy during the World Football Challenge at The Home Depot Center on August 2, 2012 in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
In our final pre-season roundtable, we discuss the world of football at large. Which is to say we talk about Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and PSG. And Robert talks about the University of Maryland, which is a bit weird, but it kind of makes sense when you read it.
As ever, feel free to jump in with your thoughts in the comments!
Aaron: Real Madrid. They're the best team in the world and Mou is probably tired of farting around.
Andrew: I'll take Barcelona. They'll be unfairly written off but I bet it's a fairly seamless transition from Pep to Vilanova.
Gareth: If Real Madrid get Luka Modric, Real Madrid will win the Champions League. If they don't get Luka Modric, they will probably still win the Champions League. Manchester City are good enough, but I've still got my doubts about Roberto Mancini.
Kirsten: PSG. Ok, I just wanted to be different. Real. But next year, PSG for sure.
Matt: I think Real Madrid finally win it.
Robert: It wouldn't surprise me to see Chelsea win it again, actually.
Who will win the Europa League?
Aaron: I think the answer is pretty clearly Atlético Madrid.
Andrew: Probably some team from Portugal called Whoa Caresa. Or Rapid Vienna.
Gareth: I'll caveat this like I always do, by noting that there's a pretty good chance that some Champions League dropout will coast to the final, but of the teams in there I'd probably pick Tottenham and André Villas-Boas.
Kirsten: Have you guys ever looked at the Europa League beginning stages? It's enough to make your head swim. I'm going to take a shot and say Newcastle, because they seem to have a point to prove about something.
Matt: I have no earthly idea. Has anyone ever correctly predicted a Europa League winner this early? I'll take Bayer Leverkusen just to a make pick.
Robert: Why not, let's make Kirsten happy and say Napoli. It's as likely to happen as anything else I pick (read: not going to happen).
Who will win the European Golden Boot?
Gareth: Whichever one of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo didn't win it last year. That said, Zlatan Ibrahimovic could run riot in Ligue 1 and steal this.
Who will win the Ballon d'Or?
Aaron: Messi, but Ronaldo will deserve it.
Andrew: Messi or Aguero
Gareth: Cristiano Ronaldo. He's too good to keep losing to Lionel Messi. I almost feel bad for him.
What do you think will be the biggest move before the end of the transfer window?
Aaron: City. They haven't spent any money and you've got to think Mansour is just sitting back giggling right about now.
Andrew: This is difficult to say. Staying within English football - I'll say the van Persie stuff gets solved and he goes to Italy.
Gareth: I'll be contrarian and say that Robin van Persie doesn't move and stays with Arsenal after all. I'm not convinced that any of the clubs that could get him should bother trying. They've all got better options, and RVP will never be as good (or as healthy) as he was last season.
Kirsten: I agree with Gareth about RVP, which is part of the reason I'm completely bored by that story. If Luka goes to Real, I think that move will be big, not so much for Real's side of it but for what it does to Spurs.
Matt: PSG buys Barcelona, like the entire city.
Robert: Considering van Persie is dominating the news, any resolution to his situation will likely be the biggest news.
What non-English team are you most interested in following this season?
Aaron: Aside from Wolfsburg and Porto, I'd say Montpellier. I am quite curious to see how they cope with losing Giroud and dealing with the money-spewing supervolcano that is PSG. They made last season a ton of fun, but I have a feeling it will be depressing this time around.
Andrew: AC Milan could be interesting for the wrong (or right) reasons. I feel like I'm on the cusp of getting into Serie A but I can't quite do it. I will never care about Germany, I'm convinced. I'll definitely want to watch PSG when I can and Spain sucks. So I guess PSG and more Italian football.
Gareth: Paris Saint-Germain. I have a perverse fascination with new-money superteams. That said, I'm only interested in seeing them in the Champions League, because I don't think they have any credible opposition in Ligue 1.
Kirsten: Well there's this little team called Napoli...but besides my Serie A love, I'm going to try to pay more attention to Balkan teams. They're mostly feeder clubs, of course, but there's not a lot of news out there in English so why not be someone who knows something random? I'm also curious to see what Slaven Bilić does at Lokomotiv Moscow because he's a rock star. But yeah, mostly it'll be Italian football.
Matt: I decided a while back that this season I'm going to watch more football than I have the past couple seasons. Last year, I really couldn't get into watching non-Villa games (most likely to do with the McLeish effect of making me hate football). So for this season, I'm gonna try and watch as much a I can. I support Bayern in Germany, so I'm looking forward to watching them. But I've also decided to watch more Serie A and Ligue 1, and have adopted Pescara (just as they're losing all their players) and Bastia. But I'm also interested in how the PSG experiment works out.
Robert: This is going to sound silly, considering all the options out there, but I would really love to get into the University of Maryland men's and women's soccer teams. Everyone in England has non-league football that they can go watch, and we don't really have that here. Since I go to UMD, I figure that might be the closest thing I can get. Plus, I hear the crowds are actually a ton of fun.