Last year, after both sides swapped teams at halftime, the first side of Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid Club de Futbol outperformed the first string of Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy en route to a 3-2 victory at the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, Calif.
This year, both teams meet again as part of a series of club international friendlies called the "2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge" on Saturday, July 16 at the home of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics as well as USC Trojans football, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
You can be sure that Landon Donovan and David Beckham will be on hand in the hopes of scoring a goal or two.
"We need the leadership from Landon and David to be successful," Arena told MLSSoccer.com's Andrea Canales on Saturday after their 2-1 victory over Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer play.
The Galaxy manager was impressed by Beckham's grit and determination.
"He's really determined," said Arena of Beckham. "He's a tough athlete. There was a point at about 65 minutes that I thought we might have to take him out, because he looked fatigued, but he hung in there. He really wanted to play. He was a tremendous presence tonight."
"When I was on loan at Preston [North End], I scored on a corner," Beckham recalled. "I saw the goalkeeper cheating forward and I saw a little bit of a gap, and I knew if I put it in a good area, it might hit in off somebody or it was going to go straight in."
"That's what guys like that are around for," said defender Gregg Berhalter. "It's great that they're able to contribute in that way. Just the effort that David gave and him playing through pain, and wanting the ball all the time was great for us, and it really boosted our team."
It's going to take more than heroics from the Galaxy's usual suspects to down Real Madrid. Actually, it's going to take a total about-face from the likes of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, among others. Complete capitulation in terms of execution, although the Galaxy should get one or two through.
You see, last season, Real Madrid, the defending Copa del Rey winners, finished second in La Liga to Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona with a record of 29-5-4 (92 points). Of course, it was miles better than third-place Valencia (21-8-9, 71 points), but that's a different story.
“I got to play against my hero—Zinedine Zidane—which was awesome,” defender Todd Dunivant told LAGalaxy.com's Larry Morgan, recalling his first match against Los Blancos. “I remember after the game people were marveling how good he was. He took the game to that much of a higher level."
This is the first of a eight-city preseason tour for Real, which includes stops in San Diego (against Chivas de Guadalajara), Philadelphia (against the Philadelphia Union), Berlin (against Hertha BSC), Leicester (against Leicester City), Guangzhou (against Guangzhou Evergrande) and Tianjin (against Tianjin Teda), culminating with the Trofeo Bernabeu at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in late August.
“We have so many competitions [to prioritize], but you don’t want to go out against Real Madrid and put a half effort in," Dunivant added. “At the end of the day we still get to play against Real Madrid, and there’s not really a day off there. We still have to get it done.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain and Mesut Ozil are Real's top goalscorers from last season. Ronaldo leads with way with 53 goals in all competitions, Benzema has recorded 26, Higuain 13 and Ozil 10. Ozil leads the team in assists with 25. Ronaldo is also a top provider, with 15 assists recorded during the 2010-11 season.
A notable omission to the traveling roster for Real Madrid is Angel Di Maria. Last season, the Argentine international scored nine goals and recorded 20 assists, good for second on the team.
Donovan recalled the last time both teams met on the pitch.
“It’s fun to play in front of a crowd like that,” Donovan said. “I’ve played a lot of games, and you don’t often play in front of 90-plus thousand people. I think we all enjoyed it.
“They’re probably a little different for me than they are for some of the younger guys. They’re still exciting, they’re still fun. You have to manage it well because the important next three games are Saturday, then in Seattle and Columbus back here. They’re fun games, but you have to use them as just that. They’re a good exercise to get better, but you can’t put too much into it.”
Of course, Captain America. It's only a friendly. Still though, this is Real Madrid we're talking about. But could you imagine if it was Barça the G's were playing instead of Real?
Hmmm. Think that one over, will you?
“You always want to play in those games,” Beckham said. “They’re exciting games, playing in front of a capacity crowd hopefully. You hate missing them, and hopefully I’ll be good for this one.”
Don't worry, Mr. Beckham. It will be a full house. I promise you. Another word to kick around: adrenaline.
“It will be fabulous for our fans,” Arena concluded. “Anybody who loves soccer, to be able to see a Real Madrid team with some of the great players in the world is fabulous.”
Yes, the Galaxy will score goals in this match, but it happens that Real Madrid is going to score more of them. But remember, Jose, this is not Barcelona you're facing. You can deal with The Champions later.
Let's go for this:
Real Madrid 4, Los Angeles Galaxy 2
Kickoff at the Coliseum is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET and will be televised by ESPN and ESPN3D.
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