Manchester City and Manchester United square off in Houston, Texas on Thursday in what will be the first-ever Manchester derby played outside of the UK.
[ MORE: Daley Blind chat to JPW ]
This game is never a friendly but with it being a preseason match-up in the International Champions Cup, we may not see as many challenges flying as we usually do when Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola lock horns. Maybe…
Here’s a quick look at three intriguing storylines heading into the game.
New kids on the block
This will be our first chance to see Kyle Walker, Ederson and Bernardo Silva in Man City shirts as Pep’s team kick off their preseason games. Walker is a big upgrade on City’s previous full back options and his pace and power will give them a new dynamic and balance. Ederson is now the go-to goalkeeper for Guardiola, even though he said Claudio Bravo will stick around and Bernando Silva is a true luxury player capable of slotting in wherever needed in attack. All three will have plenty to prove with big price-tags hanging around their necks, but perhaps Ederson is the most intriguing because the goalkeeper position has been a huge problem area for City and we know what to expect from Walker and Silva. First impressions can shape your future at a club and Ederson will be well aware of that.
Kompany vs. Lukaku
One big man against another, there’s no love lost between Belgium teammates Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku. This battle will set the tone for the upcoming clashes this season and it is a pivotal one. Kompany can handle Lukaku’s power and aerial ability, but can he handle his pace in-behind? If United can set Lukaku free, there are still doubts over Kompany’s fitness and if the 31-year-old has lost a yard of pace over the years. A supreme defender, Kompany knows this is a massive year for him to stay fit as he will try to lead City to PL glory and then Belgium to World Cup glory next summer with Lukaku by his side. On Thursday in Houston it should be a titanic battle if they come up against one another.
3-4-3 system from United?
I spoke with Man United’s utility man Daley Blind earlier this week and he told me that preparations for a 3-4-3 system is going well. When this alternate formation is deployed, Blind will likely slot in as the left-sided center back with Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof alongside him. Mourinho usually keeps it simple and plays a 4-2-3-1 formation, but now is the time to experiment and given the recent success of teams playing with wing-backs (Chelsea for most of last season, then Spurs and Arsenal towards the end) why not see if his team can do it?
United have been working on it in training and have already played that way against LA Galaxy in preseason. With United’s fans urging them to be more attack-minded, maybe Mourinho, like Wenger, could change his ways. If United do play wing-backs it will be interesting to see how City’s attackers cope with having to track back and having players in the space they’d usually roam free in.
The Seattle Sounders stole the show as Major League Soccer go back to work on Wednesday following a break for the 2017 Gold Cup.
[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]
Seven games took place in MLS on Wednesday, with the Sounders trailing 3-0 at home against D.C. United with 50 minutes on the clock.
They then scored four goals in 27 minutes with Cristian Roldan scoring the game-winner and the Sounders survived a late red card for Nicholas Lodeiro to grab a big win. It was in fact the first-time in MLS history that a team had fought back from 3-0 down to win in regulation. Majestic.
Watch the highlights of that crazy comeback above, while below is a brief recap on what else happened across MLS on a wild evening of action.
Other scores around Major League Soccer
New York City 2-2 Toronto FC – Stoppage time penalty kick grabbed a point for TFC at Yankee Stadium
LA Galaxy 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps – Big road win for the Caps who move up to 4th in the West thanks to Tchani’s header
Montral Impact 2-1 Philadelphia Union – Blerim Dzemaili was the hero as he scored a spectcular winner in Quebec
New York Red Bulls 5-1 San Jose Earthquakes – A pummeling for the struggling ‘Quakes as Royer scored twice late on
Portland Timbers 1-4 Real Salt Lake – Portland finished with nine as Adi floored Beckerman, who also saw red. Two goals for Plata
Minnesota United 0-0 Houston Dynamo – The Dynamo could’t get it done on the road against the stubborn Loons
Spanish international Alvaro Morata has arrived in London for his medical as he is set to become the most-expensive signing in Chelsea’s history.
[ MORE: Morata’s rank in PL strikers ]
The reported overall fee Chelsea have agreed to pay Real Madrid varies from $85-97 million when you calculate the add-ons, but one thing that’s for sure is Morata is eager to get going in west London.
Morata, 24, flew in from the U.S. overnight, as he was on Real’s preseason tour of the USA, and will now agree personal terms and undergo a medical before linking up with Antonio Conte‘s team who are currently on their preseason tour of China and Singapore.
“This is the best club,” Morata told Sky Sports. “Antonio Conte is one of the best coaches in the world and I’m so happy to work with Antonio.”
He was then asked how close he came to joining Manchester United, who chased Morata all summer, but the Spaniard said he had no idea how close that deal was and that “the most important thing is I’m here playing for Chelsea. Finally I’m here.”
Chelsea now have a predatory forward to replace Diego Costa who will surely leave this summer and re-join Atletico Madrid after falling out with Conte.
Having Chelsea’s boss commit his future to the Blues with a new two-year deal he signed on Tuesday clearly played a big factor in Morata joining, as the man who took him to Juventus in 2014 helped him to develop into a true center forward.
Morata’s movement, power, aerial ability and clinical finishing means he will slot perfectly into this Chelsea team and he’s already saying all the right things.
Jose Mourinho has already made two signings and spent over $135 million this summer.
But he wants more. He always wants more.
[ MORE: Daley Blind chats to JPW ]
With United back in the UEFA Champions League this season, the Portuguese coach said he wanted to add four new players to his squad to get them ready to challenge for the Premier League title and European silverware.
Speaking ahead of the Manchester Derby in Houston on Thursday against Manchester City in a preseason friendly, Mourinho revealed just how tough its been to get deals over the line this summer.
“Everybody knows because I said it, I would like four players and asked for four players,” Mourinho said. “I’m ready to go from four to three because the market is difficult, because some clubs they think the market is different from others.
“We are not a club that is not ready to buy and buy and buy non-stop. We are not a club that is ready to pay what clubs wants us to pay, so I am ready to go from four to three. With these three, I just give a better balance to the team, to the squad and better conditions to compete.”
United were just valued as the most valuable soccer team on the planet by Forbes, jumping ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid and only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are more valuable than the Red Devils in the sporting world.
Mourinho can’t play the pauper card here, even if he tried to when stating his “surprise” that Kyle Walker cost crosstown rivals Man City close to $65 million.
The truth is, he’s probably put all his eggs in one basket with the signing of Romelu Lukaku for $96.5 million and that’s okay. United needed a center forward to be the focal point of the team after Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s serious knee injury, so they got what they needed and Victor Lindelof will also be a starter in central defense.
Those two players both improve United’s team drastically.
Now, it’s quite clear that Ivan Perisic, an out-and-out winger, and Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic were the final two players Mourinho wanted to get on board. The deal for Perisic appears to be dead in the water with Inter Milan not budging on their $56 million asking price, while holding midfielder Matic will surely arrive at Old Trafford after Tiemoue Bakayoko signed for Chelsea.
Even then, does Mourinho really need another winger with Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata around? Perisic should be no more than a luxury buy if they can get him for the right price, while adding Matic to the engine room will be vital to providing balance to their slightly top-heavy squad.
After putting down a world-record fee last summer for Paul Pogba and spending big on Lukaku this summer, Mourinho won’t have many people feeling sorry for him.