International Champions Cup: Europe’s top teams step up pre-season preparations
The big talking points ahead of the tournament
Pre-season isn’t just a way to prepare for the upcoming season anymore; it’s big business too.
Nothing demonstrates that better than the International Champions Cup. The glamorous summer tournament starts this weekend and ends in mid-August. It features 18 clubs, including the champions of each of Europe’s top five leagues, as well as every Champions League finalist since 2004-05.
The games are played in 19 cities across three continents, giving fans from San Diego to Singapore a rare chance to see some of the world’s best players and teams live in action.
Ahead of Saturday’s kick-off, the Coral News Team have looked at what you should keep an eye on…
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus debut
Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to make his first appearance in a Juventus shirt during this tournament. The Old Lady face Bayern Munich, Benfica, and his former club Real Madrid over the next few weeks.
How will the Serie A champions set up with the Portuguese superstar? He virtually guarantees goals on any stage. But will he take Gonzalo Higuain’s place up front? Or will Max Allegri deploy him play wide on the left?
His departure also leaves a huge void at Madrid. The first signs of how they’ll adjust to post-Ronaldo life will be on show during this tournament.
The Emery era really begins
Arsenal are stepping into uncharted territory under Unai Emery. He’s a well-respected manager who’s enjoyed success in France and Spain, but it’s very hard to predict how the club will adjust to a new man after 22 years under Arsene Wenger.
The Gunners beat Boreham Wood 8-0 in the first game of Emery’s reign. But the National League side didn’t give them a proper test.
The upcoming games against Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea will give a better indication of their level.
Sarri starts at Chelsea
It hasn’t been a smooth summer so far for Chelsea. Former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri was belatedly appointed after the club dismissed Antonio Conte last week. He has plenty of work to do with the Premier League kicking off in just over three weeks.
The futures of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois are in doubt, while club captain Gary Cahill reportedly wants a move too.
The squad will also have to adapt to a very different style of play. Sarri’s Napoli played some of the most adventurous football in Europe. But it took a while for everything to click – Diego Maradona famously said the club would struggle to finish in mid-table during the early stages of his spell in Naples.
Maradona’s fears proved unfounded, but Blues fans will hope to see some signs of early progress against Inter Milan, Arsenal and Lyon.
How will Kovac cope at Bayern?
Niko Kovac did very well at Eintracht Frankfurt, but he’ll face a totally different challenge in charge of Bayern Munich.
The Croatian spent two years at Bayern during his playing career. Will that help him make the step up to one of the biggest jobs in Europe?
He’ll need to make a quick start to get any doubters on board. A run of good results against Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester City would be a welcome boost for the new manager.
Liverpool’s new stars on show
After bringing in Naby Keita, Fabinho and with a deal for Roma goalkeeper Alisson on the cards, Liverpool fans will be full of optimism about the coming campaign.
They’ll get to see the club’s new additions up against quality opposition for the first time during this tournament.
After addressing some of the weaknesses in their squad, the Reds look the most likely challengers to Manchester City in the Premier League. Liverpool are currently 5/1 second-favourites to win the title next term.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing