The Most Promising Pre-Season Friendlies
Oh, the Premier League off-season. So brief yet so cruel. One struggles to find ways to survive the addict’s withdrawal that comes with having no league matches every week.
The FIFA Federations Cup and World Cup qualifiers have done their part to fill the gap.
Thankfully, the remaining months contain a some mouthwatering friendlies to keep us from getting the shakes. Here are a few that hold the most promise for turning into a true classic:
21, 24 July: Chelsea v. Inter Milan; AC Milan v. Chelsea
Or, Mourinho v. Chelsea; Ancelotti v. Milan.
It might be more intense to see the Special One stroll back through the doors at Stamford Bridge to take on his old club, but Pasadena’s Rose Bowl in southern California will have to do when José Mourinho and Inter face off in this summer’s World Football Challenge, a series that brings top clubs to the States. Mourinho, the longest serving manager by far under Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, will be looking to remind his old boss of all the skills he once used to stock trophies in the London club’s cabinet.
After eight years in charge of AC Milan, Carlo Ancelotti resigned to enter the face-paced revolving-door-made-from-old-guillotine-parts that is Chelsea management. When both clubs face off in Baltimore, Maryland. Obviously the lure of soft-shell crab and the inner harbor’s bustling night life were the main draw for Ancelotti. But pitting his new Blues against his old Rossoneri must have it appeal as well. Supporters look forward to seeing what kind of tactics Ancelotti will bring against a collection of players he knows so well.
24 July: Tottenham v. Barcelona
Since Barcelona toppled Manchester United in Rome last month, Tottenham will feel they’ve got their work cut out for them. But the Spanish giants visit to north London should prove an exciting match no matter the outcome. Spurs have shown they always have a few surprises in store. They were the first team to beat Liverpool last season. They had that shocking comeback to secure a point against Arsenal. Redknapp’s boys may just have a few surprises for Barça. We’ll see. With nothing serious at stake, hopefully Spurs have fun mounting attacks and taking chances against such a formidable opponent.
30 July: Manchester United @ Bayern Munich or AC Milan
The Audi Cup is a two-day tournament in late July to mark the 100th anniversary of the Audi brand. United, Bayern, Milan and Boca Juniors will all face off. United play Boca on the 29th and then on the 30th (depending on the outcome of the previous day’s fixtures) they will face either Milan or Bayern in either the final or the play-off for third place.
So no matter how United do against the Argentine club, they’ll be facing a European powerhouse on the 30th. I personally hope they take on Bayern Munich. English v. Italian has been done to death lately. Bring on the Germans.
8 August: Liverpool v. Atlético Madrid
This is a fixture that epitomizes the idea of a friendly. After Liverpool played Atlético in the group stage of the Champions League last fall in Madrid, the visiting supporters were held back, as is custom, until the home supporters were out of the stadium. But many Atlético supporters waited around outside for the visiting fans to leave the stadium so they could socialize together. Since the double move of Fernando Torres to Anfield and Luis Garcia to the Vincente Caldéron, the two clubs have enjoyed a special bond. Supporters for each were utterly dissapointed when Torres couldn’t play in either Champions League match due to injury. Hopefully he’ll be available on 8 August to face his old club. It should prove an emotional reunion.
Plenty of potential amongst these clubs for some thrills and some great goals. Hopefully they give us something memorable to carry us into the new season.