Saturday marks the final day of group play for the 2014 International Champions Cup. All eight clubs will be in action with two emerging as group winners by day's end. Those sides will face off in the championship match on Monday.
The matches are nothing more than glorified preseason friendlies. Yet, the intensity level has certainly been higher than most fixtures you see at this stage of the summer. The competitive juices always seem to start flowing in a tournament atmosphere.
Add in the fact only two sides are eliminated from title contention and Saturday's matches should provided plenty of intrigue. Knowing that, let's check out the entire slate along with a look at what each side much do to reach the final.
|2014 International Champions Cup - August 2 Schedule|
|1 p.m.||Inter Milan||Roma||Fox Sports 2|
|3 p.m.||Olympiacos||Manchester City||Fox Sports 2|
|4:06 p.m.||Manchester United||Real Madrid||Fox|
|6:30 p.m.||AC Milan||Liverpool||NBCSN|
Even though Real Madrid are one of the squads already eliminated from contention, the tournament's reigning champions are in the most anticipated match of the day. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. face off with the superstar's former club, Manchester United. The match will take place in Michigan Stadium.
Mark Ogden of The Telegraph reports a capacity crowd of around 109,000 fans will pile in to watch two of the most high-profile teams in Europe face off in an exhibition match. He talks about the growth of the sport in the United States and the feel that's emanating from the tournament:
United versus Liverpool in Miami would be the equivalent of the Los Angeles Lakers tackling the New York Knicks at the O₂ Arena or the Dallas Cowboys facing the Green Bay Packers at Wembley Stadium and the ‘big event’ is why 109,000 will be in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
United also control their own destiny in the event. They are two points clear of any other team in Group A, which means a win or draw with a triumph in penalty kicks will send them through to the final. Any other result and they will need some help.
Roma will take on Inter Milan in the other Group A match.
The Giallorossi completed a nice turnaround to edge Real 1-0 on a Francesco Totti goal after a poor defensive outing against United. Now they face an Inter squad that hasn't shown much attacking chemistry through the first two matches.
Each side currently has three points, which means they need a win and some help from the Blancos in order to advance.
Liverpool top the table in Group B. Raheem Sterling has been particularly impressive through the first two matches. He scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Olympiacos and scored a late equalizer before the Reds knocked off Premier League rival Manchester City in penalty kicks.
A win over AC Milan would push them through to the final. Despite the solid outings, manager Brendan Rodgers told the club's official site there's still work to do.
"We still have some positions that we want to fill within the squad so that by the end of August we have a strong group of players to go forward with. We've still got some business to do," he said.
If Liverpool have a lot of progress to make, that goes double for the Rossoneri. While it's only the preseason, two losses by a combined scored of 8-1 is not a comforting sign.
The other match in the group sees City take on Olympiacos.
The Sky Blues should be very encouraged by the play of Stevan Jovetic. His first season with the club was, for the most part, forgettable due to lingering injury woes, but he's scored four goals to lead the tournament.
Aside from allowing the late goal to Liverpool, City have looked very good in the event and should find a way to emerge with three points against the Greek side. They would still need Milan to get a positive result against Liverpool to advance, though.
All told, it should be a terrific day of action around the United States. None of the teams involved are in midseason form quite yet, but the matches so far have been pretty entertaining and the final match of group play should lead to another step up in the effort level.
When the dust settles, a championship match between Manchester United and Manchester City seems like a good bet. A Manchester derby that takes place across the Atlantic would be a nice way for the tournament to come to an end.