01:00 BST, Thursday 26th July, Heinz Field (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
Kicking off at 8pm local time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the local football enthusiasts will be treated to two of the most famous names of the European game, both of whom will be looking to use the pre-season tournament as a springboard for next season.
Benfica, surrendering the title to Porto, and Dortmund, who worked their way through two managers and struggled to qualify for the Champions League last season, are intriguing teams going forward and this match-up will provide a hint at what to expect from them next season.
With a 100% record so far, Borussia Dortmund are hot favourites to win the International Champions Cup as they take on Benfica. Their Portuguese opponents will be making their first appearance of the pre-season tournament.
Last Time Out
Borussia Dortmund 3 – 1 Liverpool [International Champions Cup]
Rare for a pre-season friendly, the match received widespread attention due to Liverpool’s goalkeeper Loris Karius looking shaky and failing to put the heartbreak of the Champions League final behind him.
Fortunate his errant clearance – falling to the feer of a Dortmund player – didn’t lead to conceding, he was eventually made to pay as he parried a tame shot into the feet of substitute Jacob Bruun Larsen, who couldn’t miss.
But it would be remiss for the goalkeeping errors to characterise the match, as Dortmund were deservedly ahead before the late blunder extended their lead to 3-1 in injury time. Not quite a full-strength team, Liverpool still fielded the likes of Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Adam Lallana and new marquee signing Fabinho and brought on more high-profile names in the second half.
There was little to read into a drab first half, where Liverpool lead through an unmarked van Dijk heading in from a corner, which was to be expected after Dortmund took on Manchester City 24 hours before and fully rotated the outfielders.
But with a raft of second-half changes for both teams, Dortmund clicked into gear and Christian Pulisic grabbed two goals to give the American crowd something to cheer.
Benfica 1 – 0 Sevilla [Friendly]
Played in Zurich three days ago, Aguias – the Eagles – set a positive tone before flying out to the United States for the International Champions Cup.
In a replay of the 2014 Europa League final, it was Benfica that triumphed this time around thanks to new Chilean signing Nicolas Castillo rising at a corner to send the ball into the bottom corner.
It should be noted that Benfica played an experimental second-string team, though Sevilla also used the reserves in preparation for their European campaign which gets underway early, beginning next week against Ujpest from Hungary.
Borussia Dortmund Lineup
As is always the case with pre-season friendlies, it’s difficult to guess the intentions of managers as they look to rotate and try different systems.
New signing Thomas Delaney has an extended break following his World Cup with Denmark, though Marco Reus has joined back up with the squad following Germany’s early exit.
It’s likely that Favre will revert to many of the players who played the first fixture against Manchester City, and Reus could feature from the bench. As a Pennsylvanian, Pulisic will want to play here.
It’s likely that Rui Vitoria will use more seniority than he did against Sevilla, though it would be no surprise to see the back four relatively settled and a few new faces, such as Castillo, get minutes.
Midfielder Filip Krovinovic has not travelled as he continues to recover from a torn cruciate ligament, though veteran Brazilian striker Jonas has made the trip.
Key Battle: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) vs Alex Grimaldo (Benfica)
The young English forward has raised a few eyebrows, not least by scoring and providing two assists as Dortmund thrashed Bayer Leverkusen in the closing stages of the Bundesliga season.
Having only recently turned 18, it will be some time before he can be expected to deliver consistently, but pre-season friendlies such as this will provide him opportunities to integrate into the senior team and test his skills against some of European football’s best players.
One such player is Benfica’s Alex Grimaldo, the former La Masia graduate who has turned heads ever since he broke into Benfica’s first team. Linked with the likes of Tottenham and Napoli, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll be playing left-back for a superclub.
This will be an interesting contest between two exciting youngsters.
Christian Pulisic returns to Pennsylvania
Still a teenager, the great hope for football in America has been in great form whilst playing on home soil in the pre-season tournament.
It was his shot that was parried by Karius to give Dortmund the third goal against Liverpool, and – had it made it past the German goalkeeper – he would have had a hat-trick after he converted a penalty he won himself and scored from the edge of the box to finish off a smart counter.
Before that, he won a penalty against Manchester City after Oleksandr Zinchenko was bamboozled with his tricky footwork.
Pittsburgh may be at the other side of Pennsylvania from his hometown of Hershey, but he’ll be excited about the prospect of playing club football back in his state.
Nicolas Castillo – a surprise package?
A cult hero back with UNAM Pumas, Mexicans were familiar with the goal-scoring exploits of the Chilean forward, but he has arrived something of an unknown quantity to Benfica fans.
Having scored against Sevilla, it’s no guarantee that he’ll start again so soon after a trip across the Atlantic, but it’s likely he will feature in some capacity, if at least to rotate with the ageing Jonas.
Portuguese clubs have an exceptional record of bringing South American talents to Europe and selling them on to the bigger clubs of Italy, Spain and England. Is Castillo the latest in a grand tradition?
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2 – 0 Benfica
The early signs are promising for Favre at the German giants, and they appear settled and balanced so far in the International Champions Cup.
Playing a friendly an ocean away three days before is not ideal preparation for Benfica, who will likely use this an exercise in simply getting back up to speed before their crucial Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce. The result will be of little concern.
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