Our football analyst previews the International Champions Cup first round action which kicks off on Saturday 21 July 2018.
There isn’t a better way to spend pre-season than enjoying the International Champions Cup. It’s an ideal opportunity for teams to parade new signings and try out new combinations. European giants get to measure themselves against potential UEFA Champions League opponents. We have Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, PSG, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Benfica, AC Milan, AS Roma, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund on the menu over the next couple of days.
All friendlies will be held in the United States but Atletico Madrid’s matchup against Arsenal, which will take place in Singapore.
Saturday 21 July
Manchester City 15/10
Borussia Dortmund 15/10
Manchester City head into this one off the back of a successful domestic season where they clinched the title with a whopping 100 points. Pep Guardiola has instilled a philosophy that players believe in and it has worked wonders for the team. We could see Riyad Mahrez making his debut after making a switch from Leicester City.
Kevin De Bruyne, who was so instrumental for Belgium in the World Cup, is on holiday. Borussia Dortmund have lost several key players in recent years with Sokratis Papastathopoulos being the latest one to join the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ilkay Gundogan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Premier League. It will be difficult for them to hold their own against big guns like Man City. Back the English side to triumph.
Bayern Munich 21/20
We are all eager to find out what does Niko Kovac have in store for Bayern Munich. The Croatian manager was brought in from Eintracht Frankfurt to replace Jupp Heynckes. The Bavarians must also be delighted to hear that midfielder, Arturo Vidal, is back in training after missing the final part of last season due to a knee injury.
PSG will also be playing under a new manager as Thomas Tuchel has taken over the reins from Unai Emery who joined Arsenal. Kylian Mbappe is on an extended break after helping France to World Cup glory. The French Ligue 1 Player of the Season and world’s most expensive player, Neymar, is back from injury and he played for Brazil in the World Cup. At 2/1, Tuchel is tipped to beat Kovac in this tricky encounter.
Sunday 22 July
Borussia Dortmund 2/1
Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet are scheduled to report for Liverpool duty on August 5 due to World Cup action. Roberto Firmino is also not available for this one as he will only join the team when they travel to France a few days later. This will give Jurgen Klopp a chance to use newly-signed Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita.
From a Dortmund perspective, they will be playing their second match in two days in a different time of the day. The coach must make major changes to the line-up and you get the feeling that the only psychological boost they have is that they’re playing a weakened Liverpool side. Still, the Reds should come out on top.
Thursday 26 July
Bayern Munich 17/10
I’d be flabbergasted if Cristiano Ronaldo makes his debut for Juventus as he is known for not participating in pre-season games. Blaise Matuidi is also not expected back in training anytime soon due to his France going all the way in the World Cup.
This will be Niko Kovac’s second match in charge of the team and he might have a better understanding of his players. It also looks like the club will hold onto James Rodriguez as his two-year loan deal only expires next year. This is a tricky one to call hence why I’m backing Both Teams to Score.
Borussia Dortmund 17/20
Newly-appointed manager Lucien Favre must be delighted that at this point his team would have played two games under his reign and that could give them an edge over their opponents. Benfica finished runners-up last season, seven points behind FC Porto and these are the kind of games they need to prepare for reclaiming the trophy which they had won four seasons in a row prior to the previous campaign. I think Dortmund will triumph here.
Manchester City 13/10
This fixture often produces attacking football with lost of goals. In the four meetings last season, Liverpool won three with Manchester City winning the other one and all of them were high-scoring games. Jurgen Klopp is the only coach that holds a superior record over Pep Guardiola and he will be hoping to increase it. Liverpool will still be without Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet.
Manchester City will probably be without Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Fabian Delph, Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne as they need to rest and recuperate after a month of heavy involvement in the World Cup. Both sides won’t be at full strength and it’s not easy to predict the outcome hence why I’ll back Over 2.5 Goals.
AS Roma 15/10
Tottenham Hotspur 16/10
After narrowly missing out in the Champions League last season, losing 6-7 to Liverpool in the penultimate stage and finishing third in the Italian Serie A, Roma will be hoping to get the season off to a great start and using these games fruitfully is important. This is Eusebio Di Francesco’s second season at the helm and he will be looking to propel the team to further greatness.
Most Spurs players were heavily involved in the World Cup for Belgium and England. They also had captain Hugo Lloris going all the way to lift the trophy for France. I’m expecting key players like Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele to not feature. Back Roma against a weakened Spurs side.
AC Milan 3/1
Manchester United 8/10
At this point, AC Milan don’t know what their season is going to look like as their financial situation keeps being unpredictable. The club is now under the ownership of Elliot Fund who are trying to stabilise it.
In terms of the players, Ivan Strinic is on holiday after helping Croatia reach the final. Manchester United also had players representing France, Belgium and England. However, I feel like Jose Mourinho will have more than enough quality in his side to outdo his opponents. I’m predicting a Manchester United win.
Atletico Madrid 18/10
This is a rematch of last year’s UEFA Europa League two-legged semi-final which was won by Atletico. The Spanish side will be without Antoine Griezmann for obvious reasons. Arsenal’s dawn of a new era is well documented and fans are almost eaten up by anticipation as Unai Emery looks to turn things around. Newly signings Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Matteo Guendouzi might start while Lucas Torreira is likely to be rested. I’m backing a Gunners revenge.
Man City Win 15/10
PSG Win 21/10
Liverpool Win 23/20