It will truly be a clash of the titans when Manchester City and Real Madrid enter the Los Angeles Memorial Colosseum on Wednesday evening.
The Citizens are a side with the ambition of emulating their opponents. With its metamorphosis over the last decade, it is well known that the objection is not just to conquer the English front, but Europe as well.
They’ve signaled that intent again this offseason by smashing the summer transfer window record set by Wednesday's opponents back in 2009 and we haven’t even reached August.
Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Emerson, Douglas and Danilo (£27m from Real Madrid) have all come in for a combined fee of £221.7m.
That eclipses the £221.5m Madrid spent on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema, among others, eight years ago.
Madrid’s spending spree has resulted in 12 trophies, including two La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League victories and two club World Cups.
Now it will be up to Pep Guardiola to bring similar success to the blue half of Manchester.
While Real Madrid did it with offensive purchases, the majority of City’s buys have been focused on tightening things at the back while bringing in fullbacks that will join the attack at every opportunity.
Guardiola’s task in the second match of City’s American odyssey is to continue molding a new-look side against his bitterest rivals and, in Zinadine Zidane, a coach who is racking up trophies at a similar rate to that of Guardiola during his time at Barcelona.
While it’s not a Superclassico, and Zidane is no Jose Mourinho, it is still an interesting coaching match-up, not only in terms of tactics, but also in that it’s the first meeting between two men who used to go head to head as players. Now they can only use their heads to beat each other from their respective technical areas.
Real Madrid enters Wednesday’s encounter off a penalty shootout loss to Manchester United following a 1-1 draw in Santa Clara on Sunday.
One exciting aspect of that match was that it wasn’t just the regular superstars that delighted the crowd in northern California. Members of Real Madrid Castilla (the club's reserve side) and their U-19 squad were very impressive in taking the game to the Reds in the second half.
While they may not be ready to completely challenge the established hierarchy, the likes of Franchu, Luis Quezada and, especially, Theo Hernandez will be pushing for minutes this season.
With that said, Zidane started eight players on Sunday who featured against Juventus in the Champions League Final. With the UEFA Super Cup fast approaching, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the majority of his starters go longer than the 45 minutes they were afforded.
With both teams coming off stinging losses to Manchester United, a win against a possible future Champions League opponent would be the perfect boost ahead of their respective domestic and European campaigns. Both of which are quickly coming into view.
Manchester City and Kevin De Bruyne in particular, tore Real Madrid to pieces in a scintillating second half display that saw the Citizens explode for four goals to outclass the reigning European Champions 4-1.
It was a real signal of intent from Manchester City in front of an electric sellout crowd of 93,098 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. A record attendance for a soccer match at the iconic LA Stadium.
It all seemed so very different during the opening 45 minutes. Despite being scoreless, it was an attacking affair with each side taking turns running at the opposing back-lines.
The writing was on the wall though as Yaya Toure began to control the midfield and looked for his Belgian teammate at every opportunity.
“I know perfectly what Yaya [Toure] wants and he knows me,” De Bruyne said of their midfield partnership. “It worked out well today, but still, it’s preseason. We need to work very hard to be fully fit, but I’m doing well and I’m working very hard to be 100 percent at the start of the season.”
Only a quarter of an hour had passed when De Bruyne created a chance for himself. Intercepting a Gareth Bale flick in the center circle, the Belgian international waltzed past three defenders before dragging his shot wide.
He then turned three passes from Toure into goal scoring opportunities, playing in Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero on two separate occasions, but each time Keylor Navas was equal to the task.
Real Madrid had their chances as well with Casemiro and Karim Benzema forcing Ederson into smart saves at his near post to close out the half.
Still full of energy, the buzzing crowd didn’t have to wait long after the restart for the game’s opening goal.
John Stones attacked De Bruyne’s 52nd minute corner and even though Navas made the initial save, Nicolas Otamendi was on hand to smash in the rebound.
City added to their lead seven minutes later as the imperious De Bruyne sliced open the Madrid defense once again. This time he found Raheem Sterling who calmly slotted the ball beyond Kiko Casilla at the near post.
It was a huge confidence booster for Sterling who had been played through by De Bruyne less then a minute earlier, but flashed his shot wide of the far post. This time, however, the English international made no mistake with a much tidier finish.
Real Madrid than changed the complexion of the game as Zinedine Zidane made 9 substitutions in the 62nd minute, but De Bruyne didn’t care who he was torturing. Moments later, the former Wolfsburg man smacked a 25-yard free kick off the inside of the near post that Madrid subsequently scrambled away for a corner.
Still rattled, Los Blancos didn’t react quickly enough to City’s short corner and De Bruyne pulled the ball back for Stones to sweep in a third.
Soon after, De Bruyne would depart to a rousing ovation and come in for special praise from his manager.
“It’s not easy to find, all around the world, a guy who will fight, who will give you a pass and assists and do many many things,” Pep Guardiola said of De Bruyne. “When his mood is positive like the last three weeks since we arrived [for preseason], he’s able to do whatever he wants.”
City added an emphatic exclamation point ten minutes from time. Substitute Brahim Diaz played a quick exchange of passes with Patrick Roberts at the top of the box before smashing his shot past Casilla.
Real Madrid reminded everyone of their credentials on the stroke of full time with Oscar’s stunning consolation strike. The 18-year-old received the ball 45-yards from goal and took one touch before unleashing an unstoppable drive that gave the massive Madrid support something to savor.
Both teams now head east with City set to face English rivals Tottenham in Nashville on Saturday while Real Madrid will contend the Super Clasico against Barcelona in Miami later that evening.