Two clubs looking to make a major mark at home and in Europe over the next 10 months will continue their preparations for the new season when Manchester City and Real Madrid go head-to-head in Melbourne on Friday. For both it will be their second match in the International Champions Cup exhibition competition, with Madrid having lost to Roma on penalties and City beating the Italian side on spot kicks.
Madrid have been unusually quiet in the transfer window thus far this summer, with much of the focus instead on new coach Rafa Benitez’s plans for the players already at his disposal. In their scoreless result with Roma, Gareth Bale was lined up as a No. 10, raising the prospect that he will be used in a more integral role in the coming season. There has also been talk that Cristiano Ronaldo, with whom Benitez brushed off talk of a training ground bust up on Thursday, will be deployed as a central striker. Benitez, though, emphasized that the primary goal of Friday’s encounter will be to build fitness.
“I want to make it very clear that this is a period of preparation for the season ahead,” he said on the eve of the game, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “We'll be playing with a team that is good enough to win but the main idea is getting ourselves ready for the real matches ahead. I'll be naming a good team but I can't guarantee whether the starting lineup will include six, seven or eight players who will be starting in the first La Liga fixture. This is our preseason.”
One player seemingly unlikely to feature is the club’s newest recruit, Kiko Casilla. The former Espanyol goalkeeper and Real Madrid youth product completed his return to the Bernabeu last week following the departure of Iker Casillas, but Benitez suggested the 28-year-old was still getting up to speed with his new teammates.
“He's doing well and continuing to progress,” he said. “He's just joined the team and needs a few days to adapt.”
One of Manchester City’s summer arrivals has already made an impact with his new club. Having become the most expensive English player in history with his £49 million transfer from Liverpool, Raheem Sterling took just three minutes to find the net in a 2-2 draw against Roma on Tuesday. And there could be another English signing making his bow in a City shirt on Friday at the famed Melbourne Cricket Ground. A week after completing his protracted transfer from Aston Villa, midfielder Fabian Delph is in line to make an appearance.
City, of course, will have a familiar face to Real Madrid fans on their bench in the form of manger Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean was in charge of the Spanish giants for just a single season between 2009 and 2010 before being replaced by Jose Mourinho. Toward the end of last season it appeared his time at City was poised to come to an end, too. City ultimately decided to keep faith with the man who led them to the Premier League title the previous campaign, although they will be looking for an improvement on last season’s limp Premier League title defense and Champions League exit at the Round of 16.
Time: 6 a.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1