Chelsea-Real Madrid match a Mourinho reunion
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP)
When Real Madrid and Chelsea play for the championship of the Guinness International Champions Cup on Wednesday night, there will be more than a trophy waiting as someone's prize.
A bit of bragging rights will likely enter the picture as well.
Jose Mourinho left as Real Madrid's coach this year to return as the sideline boss at Chelsea, and it's not much of a surprise that those are the two clubs who will play for the title of the inaugural event.
Chelsea got to the final by beating Inter Milan and AC Milan; Real Madrid advanced through the eight-team field with victories over the Los Angeles Galaxy and Everton.
''There are things in life that aren't worth commenting on and this is one of them, for obvious reasons,'' Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo said this week when asked about seeing Mourinho's new club.
''I always come away with the good things about managers. I don't bite the hand that feeds me and I don't talk about people that speak badly of me. I come away with the positive things. We're going to be facing Chelsea, not their manager.''
On some level, Chelsea could be feeling the same way. Real Madrid's new coach is Carlo Ancelotti, who led Chelsea for a couple of years and took over there not long after Mourinho's first stint with that club ended.
''It is a special game,'' Ancelotti said. ''I have a great relationship with all the players. That is why it is a special game but once again it is a preseason game. It is an important test because we are playing a tough team. It will be a good test to determine our physical conditioning after the preparation we have made.''
Chelsea's Juan Mata is also getting ready to enjoy a reunion of sorts. His career started as a striker for Real Madrid.
''It will be very special for me,'' Mata said.
All eight teams in the tournament are converging in South Florida for the final four matches. Fifth- and seventh-place games were Tuesday night, and the Galaxy will meet AC Milan for third place on Wednesday, just before the Real-Chelsea title match.
Only the Galaxy is truly in-season at the moment, with the other seven clubs all starting to wrap up their preseason phases, during which they've been tinkering with lineups.
''I think this is the moment that we really have to do that, try different positions, a new system,'' Ronaldo said. ''For me, it's good to try different positions, maybe for the future. I feel comfortable.''
Ronaldo will likely complete an extension with Real Madrid soon, and Ancelotti said Tuesday night that he does not anticipate any problems between the club and its star coming to terms.
''Cristiano is taking this calmly,'' Ancelotti said.
The tournament concept was to bring big-name teams to the U.S., put them in major markets and big stadiums and continue growing interest in the sport.
Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash worked out with Inter Milan as the tournament was getting started, and Dodger Stadium played host to soccer for the first time in its 51-year history last week.
Now the clubs have arrived in South Florida, to play at the home of the Miami Dolphins, and the title matchup was the one everyone probably wanted.
''Real Madrid will be a huge test for us,'' Chelsea defender Ashley Cole said in comments posted to the team's website.
''They're obviously one of the best teams in the world and I've had some good games with Cristiano Ronaldo down the years, so I hope this will be another exciting match.''