Welcome to the preview, build-up, and live coverage of MLS All-Stars vs Real Madrid. The pre-season friendly match kicks off at 02:30 on Thursday morning at Soldier Field, Chicago.
Real Madrid take on an MLS All-Star side in the final game of their US tour at Soldier Field in Chicago with Zinedine Zidane’s side looking to end an underwhelming pre-season with their first victory.
The reigning Liga and European champions have been suffering from something of a hangover after last season’s success and have not been firing in matches against Manchester United, Manchester City and
Barcelona in the International Champions Cup.
Zidane’s side managed a draw against José Mourinho’s team in their inaugural game but were then demolished 4-1 by Pep Guardiola’s men in a game characterized by Real’s traditional Achilles heel, conceding from set-pieces. Sergio Ramos only made his return to action in the match against Barcelona and serious questions marks have been raised about the capacity of Raphael Varane and Jesús Vallejo to fill the void left by the combative Pepe.
Zidane’s strike force – in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo – has also been misfiring with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both yet to find the net in pre-season. The Real boss has been leaning on youth in the US and the form of Marco Asensio and promising performances from some of the club’s youth teamers have provided the few moments of optimism in an otherwise bleak panorama so far.
With the European Supercup against Manchester United around the corner, Zidane will treat the MSL game as a dress rehearsal and will therefore play his strongest side and resists the temptation to make too many changes. That gives Bale and Benzema a final chance to find some rhythm with the former particularly playing for his place in the side in Skopje with Asensio giving Zidane multiple reasons to start the 21-year-old against Mourinho’s side in the Welshman’s place.
Although the MLS All-Stars side may be enjoying a day in the sun against lustrous opposition, Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic will be out to prove a point about the strength of the US league and it should be noted that the All-Stars collective has lost only once since 2013, a 2-1 defeat by Arsenal last year and beat Bayern Munich in 2014 and Tottenham in 2015.
Nemanja Nikolic will fancy his chances on getting on the score sheet having plundered 16 goals in 20 games for Chicago Fire this season while Madrid will face a familiar foe in the shape of New York City’s David Villa, who has bagged 14 himself and would dearly like to add another against Madrid to his career tally.
The MLS side boasts experience in former Madrid midfielder Kaká and Bayern Munich stalwart Bastian Schweinsteiger, who moved to Chicago in March, while
youngsers Miguel Almiron (Atlanta) and Kellyn Acosta (Dallas) will be looking to impress.