MLS All-Stars vs Real Madrid: Preview and Prediction

2017 MLS All-Star Game: MLS All-Stars vs Real Madrid

Soldier Field, Chicago – Wednesday, August 2nd – 20:30 ET (01:30 BST)

Match Odds: MLS All-Stars 21/5 – Draw 3/1 – Real Madrid 7/10

MLS All-Stars vs Real Madrid: Preview

The 2017 MLS-All Stars take on Real Madrid on Wednesday night in the 22nd annual MLS All-Star game. North America’s finest soccer talents will have to try and topple the current European champions, with the sides clashing at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Real Madrid’s outlook

It’s the first time the best of MLS will come up against Spanish opponents, and Real Madrid arrive as the best club side in world football. That’s proven by the fact they’ve won back-to-back Champions League titles. They also won their first La Liga title in five years in 2016/17. They became the first side to score in every La Liga game on their way to glory.

Wednesday’s game will be Real Madrid’s final preseason warmup before they return to competitive action. Zinedine Zidane’s side face Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup next Tuesday. They then face Barcelona over two legs for the Spanish Super Cup before the new La Liga season begins on August 20.

The haven’t had the best of summers, in terms of preseason results. They failed to win any of their three International Champions Cup matches. A penalty shootout loss to Manchester United in Santa Clara was followed by a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City in Los Angeles. They then fell 3-2 to Barcelona in Miami before flying to Chicago to prepare for the All-Star game.

MLS All-Stars outlook

The MLS All-Stars lost their first game since 2013 last year. They fell 2-1 to Arsenal in San Jose and will want to bounce back with a win against the Spanish giants here.

Major League Soccer is continuing to improve with every season. The quality of the league gets better with each season. The All-Star game is the best chance for the league to showcase that to the world.

Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic will lead the star-studded MLS All-Stars this year. He is enjoying a fine season in charge of Chicago. But he now has to try and beat the world’s best team with a squad of players that have had just three days to prepare for the game together.

Ultimately, this is an exhibition game. But the stars of MLS will want to show the world how far the league has come. The All-Stars are expected to lose. But a win would further highlight the giant strides being made across the Atlantic.

MLS All-Stars vs Real Madrid: Team News

Veljko Paunovic has a mix of world-renowned talent, US national team heroes and young stars to represent the best of MLS. Commissioner Don Garber has picked Dom Dwyer and Kellyn Acosta to represent the All-Stars, and they form part of a strong 24-man squad. Former Real Madrid galactico Kaka has never played against Real Madrid, so Wednesday’s match will be a special occasion for him. David Villa was a long-time rival to Real Madrid during his time with Valencia, Atletico and Barcelona. He has played 28 games against Real – more than against any other club in world football. Bastian Schweinsteiger will captain the All-Stars.

Position MLS All-Stars Squad
Goalkeepers Frei, Howard
Defenders Beasley, Garza, Grana, Hedges, Kappelhof, Parkhurst, Van Damme, Zusi
Midfielders Acosta, Almiron, Bradley, Dos Santos, Kaka, McCarty, Piatti, Schweinsteiger, Valeri
Forwards Altidore, Dwyer, Giovinco, Nikolic, Villa

Real Madrid won’t be able to call on star man Cristiano Ronaldo. The current Ballon d’Or holder hasn’t been apart of the team’s preseason tour. That’s because of his participation in the Confederations Cup with Portugal. However, the European champions still have some of the world’s finest talents to call on. The likes of Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema are all set to play at Soldier Field on Wednesday. Several young players have been used by Zidane on the tour and they will be expected to see some action in the later stages of the match.

Position Real Madrid Squad
Goalkeepers Navas, Casilla, Yanez, L. Zidane
Defenders Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo, Theo Hernandez, Quezada, Tejero, Achraf, Manu
Midfielders Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, Isco, Ceballos, Kovacic, Oscar, Franchu
Forwards Benzema, Bale, Vazquez, Gomez, Mayoral

MLS All-Stars vs Real Madrid: Key Points

MLS All-Stars last five games: W/L/W/W/L

Real Madrid’s last games: W/W/D/L/L

Key Stat: The MLS All-Stars have scored in 11 of their 12 All-Star games against European opponents since the format was introduced in 2005. The only year in which they failed to score was 2011 in a 4-0 loss to Manchester United.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – Picking one player as the key man in a game that will be littered with stars is almost impossible. But Giovinco comes into the game having set an MLS record with his 10th free-kick goal in Sunday’s 4-0 win over NYCFC. That was also his 50th MLS goal. He has set Major League Soccer alight since moving to Toronto in 2015. If anyone is likely to tear the Madrid defence apart it’s The Atomic Ant.

MLS All-Stars vs Real Madrid: Prediction

MLS All-Stars 2-1 Real Madrid – The absence of Ronaldo will obviously be huge for Real Madrid. He’s their best player and is arguably the best in the world. But Real Madrid are still incredible strong without him. The worry for the visitors is that they have been in poor form on their US tour this summer. The All-Stars will look to take advantage of that. They are in the middle of the MLS season, meaning they are at optimum fitness. They also have a huge array of talent to call on. Don’t be surprised to see them beat Los Blancos on Wednesday night.

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How Liverpool could benefit from Barcelona swap deal if Coutinho leaves this summer

Barcelona are not giving up hope of luring Liverpool’s star playmaker Philippe Coutinho to the Nou Camp this summer, despite the fact the 24-year-old Brazilian penned a new five-year contract in January.

Coutinho became the Reds’ highest-paid player just a couple of months ago but it has done little to stop Barca from pursuing his signature as they look to strengthen this summer.

The Liverpool star is seen as an ideal replacement for Iniesta, who is approaching the end of his career and has yet to sign a new deal with the Catalan giants.

Don’t miss: Andres Iniesta rejects £28m-a-year offer from China with NYCFC move still on the cards

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Liverpool fans won’t want to imagine life without Coutinho at Anfield. His creativity is a huge asset to the side as he can operate behind the striker or out on the left wing, thriving in both roles under Jurgen Klopp.

The Reds will need even more depth next season as they prepare for life back in Europe – whether that be the Champions League or Europa League – so losing Coutinho is a scenario Klopp will be trying not to think about.

But if the player wants to link up with former Liverpool teammate Luis Suarez, Brazilian pal Neymar and Lionel Messi it will be difficult to keep him. But there is still a way Liverpool could benefit from the loss of their No.10 as Barca could allow their own 24-year-old Brazilian playmaker to depart in the coming months.

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Rafinha is reportedly being chased by Arsenal, Juventus and most interestingly Liverpool as he has been unable to nail down a guaranteed starting place with Barca. He has played 27 times in all competitions this season but has only started 17 of those matches and his chances of bettering that tally would be significantly hampered if Coutinho were to join the club this summer.

Barca would be willing to let Rafinha leave if the right offer came in, just as they did with his brother Thiago Alcantara who joined Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in 2013. Liverpool would surely move to the front of the queue for Rafinha if the two clubs were already in discussions regarding Coutinho.

16/17 League Stats
Appearances
Goals
Assists
Chances Created Per 90 Mins
Pass Accuracy
Coutinho
22
6
5
2.67
83%
Rafinha
17
6
2
1.18
92%

Both Rafinha and Coutinho have scored six league goals this season, with the Liverpool ace picking up three more assists. Although he has played five more games and has racked up 523 more minutes than the Barca man.

Coutinho creates more chances for his teammates per 90 minutes than Rafinha, although his passing accuracy isn’t as good, with the Barca academy product only misplacing 39 passes in La Liga all season.

Losing Coutinho would undoubtedly worry Reds fans but if they can negotiate a swap deal with Barcelona for Rafinha they could still be in a position to challenge at the top end of the Premier League next season. They would also be able to free up some space on the wage bill to pursue other targets as they prepare for a busier schedule in the 2017/18 campaign.

Would Rafinha be a good replacement for Coutinho at Liverpool if Barcelona come in for the Reds star this summer?

Barcelona star could turn down Manchester United move for MLS switch

FC Barcelona right-back and Manchester United transfer target Dani Alves could turn down a move to the Premier League in favour of making the switch to MLS, according to The Guardian.

The Brazilian defender has made a staggering 393 La Liga appearances during his time with Sevilla and Barcelona but has yet to agree a new deal with the Spanish giants which has left the Red Devils keeping a close eye on developments.

However, because Dani Alves is now 32 years of age, The Guardian’s Tor-Kristian Karlsen believes that the attacking full-back may be “somewhat past his prime” and is a “possible recruitment for an MLS side”.

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During his time in Spain, Alves has won five La Liga titles, two Champions League’s and three Copa Del Rey’s among other honours and would therefore demand a high weekly wage if he were to make the move to MLS.

Because of that factor, he would certainly have to join on a Designated Player contract. There are currently eight teams in Major League Soccer with Designated Player slots available, including expansion franchise New York City FC, where Alves’ former teammate David Villa is plying his trade.

The other expansion franchise, Orlando City, are owned by Brazilian man, Flávio Augusto da Silva. Ex-international compatriot Kaka and midfielder Pedro Ribeiro are also both at Orlando, so Alves could be persuaded by his fellow countrymen to join them in the USA.

Could Dani Alves make the switch to MLS?

Atletico Madrid star aspires to be like Liverpool legend and LA Galaxy DP

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke has revealed that he would like to replicate the legacy of departing Liverpool legend and new LA Galaxy Designated Player Steven Gerrard.

“I have a contract with Atletico, I want to accomplish things and I am happy here. Of course I’d like to be Atleti’s Gerrard,” Koke told FourFourTwo magazine.

The 23-year-old has scored two goals and made ten assists in La Liga this season and although he has been linked with moves to Manchester United and Chelsea in the last few months, it looks like he is keen to stay at the Vicente Calderon for as long as possible.

Koke began his youth career with Atletico back in 2000 at the age of eight and has been in the Spanish capital ever since. He broke into the first-team in 2009 when he was 17-years-old and has been a regular in midfield for the last six years.

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The Spaniard’s career so far follows a similar pattern to that of Gerrard’s – the Englishman began his youth career with Liverpool in 1987 at the age of seven before bursting on to the first-team scene in 1998 as an 18-year-old.

Gerrard will arrive at LA Galaxy at some point in July and will look to improve the performances of his new side who are currently struggling with just three wins (D5, L4) from their opening 12 gamesand are seventh out of ten in the Western Conference.

The 34-year-old will play his last Premier League game for Liverpool on Sunday away at Stoke City before he prepares for his MLS adventure with a short summer break.

Can Koke replicate Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool achievements at Atletico Madrid? And will Gerrard be a success at LA Galaxy?

Arsenal, Man United & Chelsea face tough battle for Real Madrid star

Germany World Cup winner and Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira has finally confirmed he will leave Los Blancos at the end of the season after five years in the Spanish capital.

The defensive midfielder has been restricted to just 11 appearances this season due to injuries that have troubled him since November 2013. He returned towards the end of last season to play a part in Madrid’s tenth European title (La Decima) and his country’s World Cup triumph in Brazil.

It’s no secret Real have tried to tie him down to a new contract but Khedira has rejected the contract offers and in December he said, “if we can reach a solution, I’ll be very happy.” But now it seems Khedira is all but gone from Madrid.

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“I will give everything for this shirt until the last day of my contract, there should be no doubt about that. 

“It’s not a decision against Real Madrid. I want to find new challenges for my career and continue to grow as a player,” Khedira told Spanish newspaper Marca.

The German has lost his place in the Real Madrid starting lineup with Carlo Ancelotti preferring Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the heart of the midfield.

The news is sure to alert a whole host of Premier League clubs, including Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. The Gunners have been known to be huge admirers of the in-demand midfielder and his best friend Mesut Ozil plays at the Emirates.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho brought Khedira to Real Madrid in 2010 and would love to be reunited with him.

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The former Stuttgart man has also been linked with a move back to his homeland with interest from Bundesliga clubs Bayern Munich, Schalke and Wolfsburg. But Khedira says he is yet to reach a deal with anyone over his future.

“I don’t have an agreement with any club nor any preferences as to who I would like to join,” Khedira told Kicker.

If Khedira is to leave this summer, it would surely be one of the biggest bosman transfers in recent years.

Should Petr Cech seek a move away from Chelsea?

The ever-professional Petr Cech featured in Chelsea’s 3-1 League Cup victory away at Derby County last night but that is only his fifth appearance of the season.

His first team chances have been limited by the impressive, young Thibaut Courtois, who has adapted to life at Chelsea exceptionally well.

Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, had to make a difficult decision to drop the Czech Republic legend for Courtois as he risked losing him on a permanent basis after successful long-term loan spell at Atletico Madrid.

Cech has a decision to make himself on whether or not to call time on his 11-year Chelsea career.

Petr Cech has a number of personal accolades and has written himself into Chelsea folklore, with penalty saves in the FA Cup final and Champions League final (in the game and the shootout).

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He’s now in a similar position to Carlo Cudicini, the man who was a fan favourite at the club but was replaced by a young Cech in 2004.

Cech can take a lot from Cudicini’s decision to wait another three years of infrequent appearances to depart from the club, as he wanted to remain part of a history-making squad.

Cech’s Chelsea honours:

  • Premier League: 2004/05 – 2005/06 – 2009/10
  • FA Cup: 2007 – 2009 – 2010 – 2012
  • League Cup: 2005 – 2007
  • Champions League: Runner-up 2008 – Winner 2012
  • Europa League: Winner 2013
  • Chelsea’s all-time clean sheet holder

The difference between the two is that Cech has won almost everything possible with Chelsea and it could be time to seek a new challenge.

A possible destination would be Real Madrid, who have a decision to make themselves with the future of Iker Casillas still in doubt. The Spanish international has struggled for consistent form and there has been continuous speculation over where he will go next.

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A move to Madrid would see Cech link up with former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, with whom he enjoyed Chelsea’s first double winning season in 2010.

To this point, Cech hasn’t expressed any desires to depart but as we know, all footballers are frustrated at a lack of playing time, especially when many refer to him as one of the five best goalkeepers worldwide.

Do you think Petr Cech should move on?

Ivan Rakitic set to swap Barcelona for Manchester after just six months – report

Croatian playmaker and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic could be on his way out of the Catalan club after just six months and heading for England with both Manchester United and Manchester City interested, according to the Daily Express.

Barcelona’s big summer signing from La Liga rivals Sevilla has failed to reach the heights he displayed during his time with Los Rojiblanco’s. With reports suggesting Luis Enrique is now ready to cut ties with the player.

Both Manchester United and Manchester City are now on alert, as despite only moving in the summer the Barcelona hierarchy are questioning whether his attributes fit in with traditional Barcelona philosophies.

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Although Rakitic has made 20 appearances in all competitions for the Camp Nou side, he is now playing second fiddle to veteran Xavi.

Manchester City reportedly held an interest in the summer before the Croatian international chose Barcelona, and with Frank Lampard’s meant to finish in January, Manuel Pellegrini could make a move for the former Sevilla captain.

Rakitic has already played in the Champions League for Barcelona, so he would be cup-tied if he joined another club that is playing in the European competition in January.

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Manchester City’s attempt to sign Rakitic would be matched by Manchester United, as Louis Van Gaal is still looking to grow his squad as the Red Devils push for a top-four finish and perhaps even the title.

Ivan Rakitic has played in Spain and Germany but has yet to play at club level in England. He would join an elite collection of Croatians who have plyed their trade in England including Luka Modric and the former Croatian national team manager Slaven Bilic if he made the move.

But with Barcelona’s transfer embargo in place for the next two transfer windows, would Barcelona want to sell when they cannot replace him?

Should Barcelona star Xavi still make the move to MLS?

Reports at the end of last season were that Xavi Hernandez was at the end of his Barcelona career, with a move to Major League Soccer a widely rumoured possibility.

After links to New York City FC, Xavi made a dramatic U-turn on his decision to depart from the Catalan giants and has enjoyed a fruitful term this season.

He has featured 12 times in La Liga so far and netted once. Having a player of his stature is beneficial to any club, no matter how old he is.

At this moment in time it is hard to predict whether or not we will see him make the switch to MLS before he calls time on his playing career.

He will turn 35 in January and could still play at least a couple of seasons after this.

Barcelona will not be looking to let him go easily, but admitted last term that he can decide his own future due to his services to the club over the years.

He would be another great addition to the league. Not just for the Spanish contingency in America, but also players of a similar age across the league.

Bringing crucial experience to every player in the dressing room, he has proved to be one of the coolest characters in difficult games throughout his career.

New York City would have been a brilliant destination for him, linking up with former teammate and Spanish counterpart David Villa.

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It would also see him play alongside Frank Lampard, who he has faced in some of the most memorable European ties between Chelsea and Barcelona in the Champions League.

He may choose the same option as former teammate and club legend Carles Puyol and hang up his boots with his lifelong team.

But it is a situation worth keeping in mind and many people would like to see a move go through, no matter where he ends up.

New York Red Bulls are believed to be looking for a star central midfielder to bring in following the departure of Thierry Henry and New York is Xavi’s most likely destination were he to make the switch.

Should Xavi make the move to MLS?

Premier League Transfers: Quality over quantity is the only way forward

Jamie Ives looks at where Premier League clubs are going wrong with regard to transfer policies and why the number of quality players in the top flight may be decreasing…

Over the past five years the Premier League has become more and more competitive and predicting outcomes has become a betting man’s worst nightmare due to the unpredictability of the league.

The Premier League is still viewed as the best league in the world by many. And the main reason for the more competitive structure is the transfer policy of Premier League clubs nowadays.

World-class players at their peak are leaving England’s top division and are not being replaced by world-class players. The best examples of this in recent years are Liverpool and Tottenham, who, over the last two summer’s have lost Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale to Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

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Spurs replaced Bale with an array of players that have yet to make up for the loss of the Welsh wizard. Attacking players Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen were all brought in using the Bale money but have not made the same impact in the side on a consistent basis.

It’s a similar issue with Liverpool. They used the money they acquired through the Suarez deal to bring in Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli – all of whom have failed to make up for the Uruguayan’s absence.

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And thus with this policy, both teams have lost pace with other big clubs in the league, such as Chelsea. The Blues have adopted the opposite strategy this year and it looks to have paid off. Bringing in Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa has fired them to top spot and they don’t look like they’ll fall away anytime soon.

It seems modern football clubs value a large squad, which has its obvious advantages due to injury problems and long fixture lists. However, there is no substitute for a world-class player, no matter how many players you bring in.

The amount of world-class talent in the Premier League is decreasing and England’s UEFA Champions League teams failures are fundamentally the reason for this.

Germany’s Bayern Munich and Spain’s Real Madrid and Barcelona are the dominant forces in the game today, and the very best players are signed by these clubs at all costs. That has ensured they remain competitive in every competition they are in.

Premier League clubs should be keeping hold of their assets, and if they do decide to sell, replacing them with players of the same calibre is a must, and not three or four average replacements.