The 2016 International Champions Cup kicks off this weekend, with 16 of Europe’s best beginning their preseason preparations with matches scheduled around the globe. Australia, China, Europe and the United States will all host games as we catch a glimpse of what is to come in the new season ahead from some powerhouse squads.
While the tournament may ultimately just be high profile (high priced) friendlies and results may not carry much importance, all of the clubs involved will be looking for a strong run up to their new campaign.
After taking in several of the games over the past few years in New York, I can say that the atmosphere is usually quite impressive for the ICC and it gives fans and supporters around the world a rare opportunity to see their stars in person.
While the transfer window is still open and teams continue to take shape, we highlight five areas that will be interesting over the next few weeks as the tournament progresses.
- Leicester City – England
After an improbable journey to last season’s Premier League title, Leicester City return with high hopes at continuing to achieve what seemed impossible just 12 months ago in the English top flight.
However, manager Claudio Ranieri finds himself in the difficult position of replacing a key cog from last year’s squad in midfielder N’Golo Kante. The French international signed with Chelsea last week and was one of the many breakout stars for the Foxes during their championship run. His incredible work rate, positioning and tackling ability will be sorely missed as Leicester search for a suitable replacement.
Last year’s PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez has also expressed a desire to leave the team, as Ranieri may yet have even more searching to do to keep the team competitive in both England and the Champions League this season. Ranieri’s midfield alignment will be noteworthy throughout their ICC matches.
- Manchester United – England
Manchester United and Jose Mourinho will take their show on the road headed east to China for the ICC, along with Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. Even with leaving new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic off of the squad for the preseason tournament, United supporters will be anxious to see a more attacking approach from the Red Devils and the Special One.
Despite being known for his defensive tactics, Mourinho will be looking to reinvigorate a group that spent a great deal of time struggling to find goals in many of their matches last season. How Jose chooses to use players like Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and young striker Marcus Rashford will certainly be interesting as well.
- Bayern Munich – Germany
One of the most anticipated matches of the ICC will take place on August 3rd when European champions Real Madrid meet Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Bavarian giants welcome new manager Carlo Ancelotti into the fold this season, as Pep Guardiola has left to take over Manchester City. Ancelotti returns to coaching after an extended break following his dismissal at Real Madrid last year.
The Italian manager guided Real to “La Decima”, their 10th European championship, in 2014 and will be aiming to do the same for Bayern. He inherits a strong team that has dominated the German first division and will be looking for Champions league glory, but can Carlo meet these lofty expectations in year one?
- Liverpool – England
Liverpool went through some major ups and downs in the 2015-16 season, with success scattered across their campaign throughout various competitions.
After giving Brendan Rodgers the boot in October and hiring Jurgen Klopp, the team saw immediate success thanks to the German’s infectious and inspiring management style. He brought a renewed sense of urgency to all areas for the squad, guiding them to the finals of the Capital One Cup and the Europa League.
But an eighth place finish in the Premier League table and two losses in cup finals will not cut it for this club moving forward. Now with a full offseason in charge, we should see the team take shape more fully into Klopp’s vision and the upcoming ICC matches may provide a preview of what is to come.
- Paris Saint-Germain – France
For the first time in four years, French league champions PSG will take on the competition without their legendary goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In his 122 appearances in France, Ibra tallied an absurd 113 goals for the club.
New manager Unai Emery clearly has some big shoes to fill at the forward position.
The transfer window could still bring some changes, and certainly Edinson Cavani provides incredible ability up top. But there is an end-of-an-era feel to the team, and the ICC could show us their new direction this summer.
Roy Emanuel, TFN International Correspondent on 20/07/2016 at 11:33
Follow Roy on Twitter @roy13a