Football never sleeps. No sooner have we seen the back of Euro 2016 than the International Champions Cup returns to Australian shores. This year we welcome Italian champions Juventus, Champions League finalists Atletico Madrid and Premier League third place-getters, Tottenham Hotspur. This time around, we’ve also got one of our own in the mix, with Melbourne Victory repping for the A-League and set to kick proceedings off against the Bianconeri on Saturday night.
Let’s take a closer look at the games and see if we can find some value.
Melbourne Victory vs Juventus
Melbourne and Juve will get the International Champions Cup underway this Saturday night at the MCG, with the Victory looking to improve on the 4 — 1 loss they suffered in the only previous meeting between the two clubs back in 2008. The talk in the lead-up to that game was all about Juventus leaving their star players at home – and it’s much the same this time around. Back in 2008 Juventus were missing some pretty outrageous talent, including David Trezeguet, Pavel Nedved, Alessandro Del Piero, Giorgos Chiellini and Gigi Buffon – not lightweights by any means. This time, they’re resting 13 players who were involved in Euro 2016 – including Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, Khedira, Madzukic and the subject of a world record transfer bid from Manchester United, Paul Pogba.
If you think Melbourne Victory are in for an easier time then, think again. Juve are still bringing some truly world class talent – including Mehdi Benatia, recent acquisition Miralem Pjanic and the outstanding young Argentine, Paulo Dybala – who can stake a fair claim as one of the best u23 players in the world. It might not be the full box and dice, but Juve have certainly brought enough to cause Melbourne serious issues.
Still, the Victory are not quite so green as they were back in 2008 – having played other international opponents like Boca Juniors, Celtic and Liverpool since – while the standard of the A-League has continued to rise steadily every year. In fact, a fully flying Victory would give this Juventus squad a few issues. The problem for Victory is that they themselves are only bringing half a squad. Since bowing out in the first week of finals last season – the Victory have lost 10 players and have so far only managed to bring three in – meaning their squad is lacking polish, particularly in the final third. With this in mind, Victory will be flat out creating chances let alone putting them away.
At the other end of the park, the departure of Frenchman Mathieu Delpierre is a huge loss – he was without question one of the finest defenders to ever grace the A-League. Melbourne have replaced him with experienced Spaniard, Alan Baro, who has spent the majority of his career in Spain’s second division. While he may yet prove to be a quality signing, he’s not been in Melbourne long and will no doubt take time to adjust. All of this bodes well for Paulo Dybala. The young striker notched 19 goals and 9 assists in Serie A last season and fans in Melbourne are in for a treat, he’s one of the most exciting creative players in the world at the moment.
So, what can we expect? It’s the first meaningful hit-out for either side in their pre-season, so both sides will be looking to get a bit of fitness in the legs and avoid injuries. Still, we know that Victory are taking the game seriously, and plenty in the Juve side will want to take their opportunity to show themselves with 13 first team stars out. With Victory still a bit short in the front third, expect Juve to be pretty comfortable.
Juventus 2 — 0 ($7.00)