When Thomas Muller sent a perfect drive sailing past goalkeeper Tim Howard to clinch Germany’s 1-0 victory over the United States, most Bay Area spectators were more than 4,800 miles away.
But this weekend, distance won’t be an issue for local soccer fans looking to enjoy world-class competition. Just three weeks after the conclusion of the 2014 World Cup, Real Madrid will take on Inter Milan at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday as a part of the Guinness International Champions Cup — an offseason tournament designed to pit several of the world’s best soccer clubs against one another at sites across the United States and Canada.
This year, the tournament will feature eight participants, including globally renowned squads such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City.Saturday’s contest will be the second of six round-robin-style games played in Pool A of the tournament, and the winner of this group will face the winner of Pool B on Aug. 4.
Both Real Madrid and Inter Milan could prove to be strong tournament-title contenders, and each brings a long list of international accomplishments to the matchup this weekend. Inter Milan is known as one of the most successful soccer squads in Italy with 18 Serie A titles, three UEFA Cups and two Intercontinental Cups.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid, last year’s International Champions Cup victor, will likely be the favorite in Saturday’s game. One of the world’s most recognizable sports franchises, Real Madrid has won 32 Spanish league titles and 10 European Cups. The club is also coming off a remarkable season in which it won both the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League title.
Real Madrid, however, will be missing several of its pivotal contributors this weekend, particularly on offense. One notable absence will be winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who will not be a part of Real Madrid’s 20-man roster this weekend. The Portuguese star will be taking time to recover from a nagging knee injury that some believe affected his World Cup performance. A batch of other projected first-team players is also expected to be missing from the lineup Saturday, including newly signed midfielders James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.
Without its biggest star in Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s matchup with the Italian franchise likely won’t be an easy one.Last season, Ronaldo scored 51 goals in 44 league and cup appearances and was pivotal to the squad’s success. Still, players such as midfielder Gareth Bale should keep the Spanish giant afloat in what figures to be an exciting offseason contest.
Dani Jo Coony is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].