The two biggest Galacticos may remain absent, but both Real Madrid and Chelsea will get a boost of star power when they face their second matches in the United States on Saturday. The two European giants will continue their International Champions Cup schedules at the 110,000-capacity Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
For both, it will represent a cranking up of preparations for the new season, with key players likely to join the fold. For Chelsea, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois are expected to feature for the first time this preseason, while striker Diego Costa should return after missing the 1-0 win over Liverpool on Wednesday. Madrid, meanwhile, will reportedly hand first minutes of preseason to captain Sergio Ramos as well as Luka Modric and James Rodriguez.
Still missing Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, as well as Toni Kroos and Pepe, after their Euro 2016 commitments, Zinedine Zidane’s squad could certainly do with a boost. In the club’s opening game of preseason, against Paris Saint-Germain in Ohio on Wednesday, Madrid was brushed aside 3-1. The result perhaps wasn’t surprising, given the differing stages of preparation for the new season of the two teams and the fact that Madrid fielded a hugely inexperienced lineup in the second half. However, Zidane will be keen for his side to start building some rhythm ahead of the European Super Cup against Sevilla on Aug. 9.
So far, it has not been the smoothest summer for the Spanish giants. In contrast to how it usually goes about its business, Real Madrid has failed to make any big signings, despite showing strong interest in midfielders Paul Pogba and Andre Gomes. It could well be a busy August at the Bernabeu, not exactly ideal preparation for the start of the season.
Ronaldo and Bale are unlikely to be fully fit for the start of the campaign, either, while Karim Benzema, although in the U.S., is struggling with injury. With the France forward again unlikely to feature on Saturday, there is set to be another opportunity for Alvaro Morata to impress.
The Spanish striker is the one player to have been signed by Madrid this summer, when the club activated a buy-back clause from Juventus, but his future for the coming season remains uncertain. Indeed, adding spice to Saturday’s matchup, Chelsea is thought to have been trying harder than any club to prize him away from Madrid this summer.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s current No. 1 striker, Diego Costa, continues to be linked with a return to Madrid, with Atletico. The contest between the two strikers promises to be one of the standout attractions in Michigan.
For Chelsea, though, the result is also of particular importance. Last season’s disastrous Premier League title defense was foreshadowed by a poor preseason in which it lost to a New York Red Bulls reserve side. After a calamitous campaign in which Chelsea finished 10th in the Premier League and Jose Mourinho lost his job, the club is now hoping for a new era under Antonio Conte and an immediate return to the Champions League.
Midfielder Nemanja Matic believes that starts with a positive preseason. And, after rebounding from an opening loss against Rapid Vienna, the midfielder is keen to build on victories over Austrian side Wolfsberger and Premier League rivals Liverpool.
“It is vital for us that we are getting that winning feeling already,” Matic told the London Evening Standard. “Some people say pre-season results don’t matter but every game is important. It doesn’t matter if it is in the Premier League, Champions League or a friendly, every time we play for Chelsea it means something. Every player wants to win.
“It’s very important for us to have two games in a row already. But the most crucial thing is that we are getting better and better, step by step.”
Chelsea Squad For Real Madrid Match
Goalkeepers : Thibaut Courtois, Asmir Begovic, Jamal Blackman, Nathan Baxter
Defenders : John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, César Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma, Baba Rahman, Ola Aina, Matt Miazga, Michael Hector, Fikayo Tomori
Midfielders : Nemanja Matić, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Juan Cuadrado, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah, Kenedy
Forwards : Diego Costa, Michy Batshuayi, Pedro, Loic Rémy, Bertrand Traore, Victor Moses, Tammy Abraham
Real Madrid Squad
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas, Kike Casilla, Ruben Yanex, Alex Craninx, Luca Zidane
Defenders: Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Danilo, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Nacho, Philipp Lienhart, Alvaro Tejero, Achraf Hakimi
Midfielders: Casemiro, Luka Modric, Isco, Mateo Kovacic, James Rodriguez, Marco Asensio, Martin Odegaard, Enzo Zidane, Diego Llorente, Aleix Febas
Forwards: Karim Benzema, Alvaro Morata, Jese Rodriguez, Lucas Vazquez, Mariano, Sergio Diaz
Kickoff Time: 3.05 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Live Stream: Watch ESPN