While the International Champions Cup is only considered an exhibition tournament before most squads start their regular season, there is still plenty of pressure involved.
This eight-team tournament is a great way for clubs from four different countries to represent their league and show that it is among the best in the world. The squads themselves are also attempting to show that they can compete with top opponents.
However, this is also a chance for specific players to show what they can do in a competitive environment. While someone like Cristiano Ronaldo has little to prove, these men have more on the line.
Asier Illarramendi, Real Madrid
Real Madrid spent £34 million to bring Asier Illarramendi from Real Sociedad and feel he is a long-term replacement for Xabi Alonso, according to the Guardian.
This is high praise for the 23-year-old midfielder, but it also comes with a lot of pressure. He needs to use these matches to prove that he is worth the lofty fee that his club spent to bring him in.
If he struggles to make an impact against an MLS opponent, it would be hard to have confidence in the player when he matches up against Barcelona and others in Europe.
Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy
After a spectacular performance at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, it is clear Landon Donovan is as good as ever despite already being 31 years old. He contributed to 12 goals in six matches and was easily the best player in the tournament.
However, that skill has not carried over for the Galaxy this season. To this point, he has only appeared in 12 MLS matches out of a possible 22, and that has hurt the squad in the league table.
The veteran midfielder is the best player on the roster, and the club needs him to be playing at his best in order to win matches.
A strong performance at this tournament will help the team feel better about its season going forward.
Sami Khedira, Real Madrid
With Illarramendi on the roster, playing time is going to be limited going forward for Sami Khedira. The experienced German has done well throughout his career but still has been too inconsistent to trust on the first team.
Khedira made only 19 starts last season, a number that is unlikely to increase this year with a couple of additions to the midfield to take his place.
John Cross of The Daily Mirror reports that the player has become a target for Chelsea, which could help him find some more starts in a World Cup year. However, he will still need to prove his merit in order to gain interest from other clubs.
Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy
Thanks to strong performances for his club and the United States national team, Omar Gonzalez is very likely to remain the starting center back for the U.S. team going forward.
However, he certainly has a lack of experience when it comes to top-flight opponents.
To this point in his career, he has generally only faced club teams in the MLS and national teams from CONCACAF. There is certainly a big jump when it comes to European competition.
If he can do well defensively in this match and keep Real Madrid off the scoreboard, it will prove that he is ready to compete at the international level.
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