Atlético de Madrid are set for an action-packed summer at the International Champions Cup. They face three tough opponents: Juventus, Real Madrid and Chivas de Guadalajara.
Juventus are currently in a state of uncertainty, having parted ways with their manager of five seasons, Massimiliano Allegri, in May. Despite having won the Serie A every season and the Coppa Italia in four, the failure to deliver the Champions League proved to be his undoing. Maurizio Sarri is rumored to be on his way to Turin after a frosty year at Chelsea, an appointment that would prove to be intriguing. Sarri ran Juventus close with Napoli the previous season, and might be able to get the best of Gonzalo Higuain once again back in Serie A.
Juventus already have Aaron Ramsey arriving next season, who will be coming back to Singapore having traveled here with Arsenal last year. The International Champions Cup games will be a good first sight at how Ramsey is utilized by the Bianconeri. He’s the only summer signing announced so far, although there will undoubtedly be more.
Ultimately, how Juventus turn out in pre-season depends on the identity of the new manager. If it’s Sarri, who knows what he can achieve with a pre-season under his belt?
Florentino Perez has had enough. Domestic underperformance in recent years was masked by a historic three-peat in the Champions League, but they were knocked out by Ajax at home in the Round of 16 this season. To add to that, Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari oversaw a shocking underperformance in the domestic league, with Madrid losing eight games by the time Zinedine Zidane was recalled. That the Frenchman has returned after leaving in the summer was indicative of Perez’s details to fully back his manager. And so he has.
Éder Militao, the 21-year old defender from Porto, has been signed for 50 million euros ($57 million) to provide competition at center back and right back. Madrid have also secured the purchase of Luka Jovic for 60 million euros ($68 million) from Eintracht Frankfurt. The Serbian scored 25 goals in all competitions this season and will provide a proper alternative to Karim Benzema in the hopes of eventually supplanting him. There’s also Rodrygo Goes, who joins the squad having been signed in 2018. But these youngsters pale in comparison to Eden Hazard.
The Belgian’s eventual signing is the symbol of Madrid throwing down the gauntlet this season. For a rumored price of 100 million euros ($113 million), Hazard will add tremendous star power and production to a side that lost their way without Ronaldo. It’s a marriage that is almost confirmed; Real Madrid now look ready to dominate once again after their blip this season.
Chivas de Guadalajara
Chivas will be only the second Mexican team to take part in the International Champions Cup, after Club America played four games in the 2015 iteration. That involved two games against MLS opposition, and games against Manchester United and Benfica. Chivas, however, will be playing all three against European opposition as they prepare for the new Apertura season. Roma, Benfica and Atletico Madrid would all pose strong opposition.
The Guadalajara-based club, who don a similar red and white kit to Atletico Madrid, are one of Mexico’s most decorated clubs, winning the Liga MX 12 times. Success has not been as consistent in recent years, the Clausura 2017 notwithstanding. However, they triumphed in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2018, their second victory in the competition, by beating MLS outfit Toronto FC on penalties.
Chivas will bring a mixture of youngsters and seasoned heads to the United States. Keeper Raúl Gudiño was formerly of FC Porto, and is set to be Mexico’s future in the position after Guillermo Ochoa hangs up his boots. Alexis Vega is an exciting forward who signed from Toluca for nine million in December 2018, and scored a hat-trick vs Club Atlas earlier in the year. Along with FC Dallas graduated Alejandro Zendejas, they would be looking to make an impact in the hopes of impressing European clubs.
Naturally, the focus in the ICC will be on the Madrid Derby. But Atlético de Madrid won't be let off easy by Chivas and Juventus.