Real Madrid vs Roma | Saturday 18 July | Melbourne Cricket Ground | 11:00
The International Champions Cup sees some of football's highest powers duel in the name of pre-season success. Spanish giants Real Madrid will do battle against Italian powerhouses Roma in Melbourne on Saturday in the biggest match of the pre-season competition so far.
To Win (90mins)
Real Madrid 11/20
The 2014/15 season finished with Real Madrid unable to get their hands onto any kind of silverware, which eventually led to Carlo Ancelotti's dismissal and the signing of Rafael Benitez. With no major honours, the season could be seen as a major let down, especially considering their strong start and 22-match winning streak. Benitez will now be inheriting a great team and his penchant for rotation could be the secret this season. Pre-season will give Benitez's men some valuable warm-up experience in preparation for the new term. Rafa will look upon the current crop of players as one he can certainly mould to challenge once again for elite titles this season. After all, not much has changed from the team that clinched La Decima and the Copa del Rey in 2014. Sergio Ramos has been included in Madrid's squad for their tour of Australia despite being linked with a move to Manchester United. Other notable inclusions in the team include new signing Danilo from Porto while teenage sensation Martin Odegaard is given an opportunity to impress, having made his first-team debut for the club on the final day of last season. James Rodriguez is absent from the party as a result of his Copa America exertions for Colombia last month but Madrid will have their lethal trio of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo available.
Roma’s season was an indifferent one to say the least. The team can’t have been said to have really underachieved, they finished second in Serie A behind a superlative Juventus side and secured an automatic Champions League place for the second year in a row. However, it is hard to look back over the Giallorossi’s season without feeling a little empty. The problem for Rudi Garcia’s side was no doubt goals. They only managed 54 league goals in 38 games and the supposed goal scorers of the side - Francesco Totti and Juan Iturbe - found no form throughout the season. They brought in Seydou Doumbia, who, at CSKA Moscow was a poacher; but he only managed two goals in thirteen games after January. Most of this was down to the negative playstyle of Roma. The Giallorossi will be hoping for better things in the upcoming 2015/16 season and victory over Madrid could give them some sort of confidence. Roma have a very balanced team and a superb midfield, but Miralem Pjanic stands out as the most consistent playmaker and arguably the most influential player in the team. He has been solid on the wing of a 4-3-3 formation and in a deeper midfield position, even though the Bosnian plays at his best when deployed behind a forward. There are many other quality players in this Roma team such as Daniele De Rossi, Gervinho and Totti.
VERDICT: Real Madrid 11/20
Real Madrid are favourites at 11/20 while Roma are valued at 4/1. This will be Rafa Benitez’s first game in charge of the club and the Madrid players will be going all out to impress. Los Blancos have won four while drawing once in their eight encounters against Roma and are tipped to get the win.