International Champions Cup Final 2013: Players to Watch for Madrid and Chelsea
In one of the last preseason matches before league play is officially here, Chelsea and Real Madrid will meet in Miami on Wednesday night in the International Champions Cup final.
Both clubs put on strong performances in the tournament semifinals.
Madrid took a 2-0 first-half lead over Everton and withstood a second-half goal to advance in one semifinal, while Chelsea took down AC Milan in the other championship-sending match.
Although it's just a preseason tournament, we've seen strong individual performances from many of the top names in the world.
Here's a look at three players to watch as the Blues and Los Blancos both vie for the ICC title in South Beach.
Who: Real Madrid vs. Chelsea
When: Wednesday, Aug. 7, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Watch: Fox Soccer
Players to Watch
Victor Moses, Chelsea
After a solid, if unspectacular, first season with the Blues last year, Victor Moses has been a strong performer for Jose Mourinho during the preseason.
In two games at the International Champions Cup, he's been all over the field.
In Chelsea's opening match victory over Inter Milan, Moses assisted both of his squad's goals. He also earned match honors through the tournament's official Twitter account:
He followed up a strong opening performance with an assist in the Blues' win over AC Milan in the second round. Chelsea's Twitter account chronicled that score on Sunday:
Although Moses had just one goal for Chelsea last season in the Premier League, he showed signs of life late in the year. He had four goals in five Europa League matches, and is expected to be a major contributor for Mourinho when the new EPL campaign begins.
As noted by Goal.com Nigeria on Twitter, Mourinho has been highly complimentary of Moses' preparation and hard work to earn playing time on a very crowded Chelsea roster:
Real Madrid have been much stronger on the attack than the defense so far in the ICC, and if Moses plays like he has in Chelsea's two opening matches in the U.S., he could be a definitive spark for his side yet again.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid
One of the top three players on the planet, Ronaldo has given American soccer fans a treat each time he has stepped on the pitch at the International Champions Cup.
Involved in three of Madrid's five goals at the tournament so far, Ronaldo was magnificent against Everton in the first half on Saturday. With a goal and an unselfish assist to Mesut Ozil, Ronaldo helped vault Los Blancos to an early lead that they would not relinquish.
Although a player of his caliber wouldn't normally be involved in transfer rumours under any circumstance, rumours have crept up about a potential exit from the Bernabeu.
The Daily Star reported last week that Ronaldo was on the brink of returning to Old Trafford for a reported fee of £80 million.
As noted by Fox Soccer's Twitter account on Friday, Ancelotti doesn't expect Ronaldo to leave Madrid quite yet:
Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti expects Cristiano Ronaldo to stay. http://t.co/6WM408zynS— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 7, 2013
Transfer talk aside, Ronaldo will be on the pitch on Wednesday night in the ICC final. His status in Spain might be in question, but his talent on the pitch never is. Ronaldo should dazzle us again against a former EPL rival with a trophy on the line.
Ashley Cole, Chelsea
Cole will be one of the Chelsea defenders tasked with keeping Ronaldo in check, and let's face it—that task is not something you can prepare for at the flip of a hat.
As noted by Goal.com's Ian Capasso, Cole expects to be tested early and often by his former EPL rival. If he can stand up to that test, there's a good chance Chelsea will be bringing a trophy with them back to England.
The Blues have not surrendered a goal so far in the United States.
Strong work from Cole, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry and goalkeeper Petr Cech has kept a zero on the scoreboard so far, but Real Madrid are a much different test than either of the two Serie A clubs the Blues have defeated at the ICC.
Who wins the ICC final?
Cole will need to be in top form to keep Madrid's attackers from pushing the ball up and down the field, which is exactly what happened in Los Blancos win over Everton. Keeping Ronaldo, Isco, Ozil and Karim Benzema in check will be a huge point of emphasis for Mourinho.
With a chance to revisit the past and hold bragging rights over Ronaldo until their next meeting, expect Cole to turn things up a notch on Wednesday night.
Preseason match or not—this is the International Champions Cup final. Both storied sides want this match, and these three players should have a big role in the final tally.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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