International week is here again! And while Louis van Gaal will, we hope, be sat in a dark room watching Manchester United's shredding at the hands and feet of Arsenal over and over again, moaning softly to himself and deciding who to blame — hint, Louis: you — fully 16 of his players will be gadding off around the world to sing jingoistic songs and play underwhelming football.
Some of them won't be gadding very far, admittedly. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney, for example, will at first gad all the way to north-west London, where England play Estonia on Friday night. Then they'll be off to play Lithuania on Monday. Both those games are Euro 2016 qualifiers, though since England are already through as group winners they are quite simply matters of pride, practice and patriotism. Roar.
Rooney's got a bit of an ankle problem, by the way, and might not feature in at least the first game. Lucky old England.
Elsewhere in Europe, little-and-large Spanish comedy duo Juan Mata and David de Gea face a home game against Luxemboug on Friday before schlepping off to Ukraine on Monday. Spain are already through, but need two wins to be sure of finishing top of the group. We've just realised that we don't know if finishing top makes any difference. We're not looking it up.
Most assuredly not yet through are the Dutch. Memphis Depay and Daley Blind first travel to Kazakhstan on Saturday, then play at home against the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Automatic qualification is impossible, but if they make up three points on third-placed Turkey over the two games, they will sneak into the playoffs.
Also involved in qualification are Marouane Fellaini and the on-loan Adnan Januzaj, as Belgium face Andorra and Israel; Paddy McNair, whose Northern Ireland are assured of a playoff spot but can guarantee direct qualification with a win over Greece or Finland; Bastian Schweinsteiger, with Germany needing one win from games against the Republic of Ireland tonight, then Georgia on Sunday; and Matteo Darmian, whose Italy play Azerbaijan and Norway, and also need just one win.
As hosts, the French can afford to be much more relaxed about the whole things. Morgan Schneiderlin and Anthony Martial are in the squad a friendly game against Armenia this evening. If Martial is picked from the beginning, it will be his first international start.
Outside of Europe, World Cup qualification is beginning in South America. Antonio Valencia will lineup for Ecuador against Argentina and Bolivia, and might have been facing his club teammate Marcos Rojo had the defender not withdrawn from the squad due to injury. So Rojo will be spending a week at Carrington with Van Gaal. We're sure that won't be at all awkward.