Real Madrid v Al Ittihad, Peace Cup, July 26, 2009
All eyes will be on the Peace Cup on Sunday, when Florentino Perezâ€™s second Galactico project play their second pre-season match of the summer.
Unlike their opening game against Shamrock Rovers last Monday, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo could well line up together for this game in what should be an expectant Bernabeu. Real Madrid are heavy favourites to progress from Group B, where they will face LDU Quito of Ecuador and Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.
Brazilian star Kaka is expected to make his non-competitive debut for Los Blancos during the tournament and this may come at the semi-final stage likely to be against either Sevilla or Juventus.
Cristiano Ronaldo will surely be aware about the hype and expectation on his shoulders following the world record transfer fee from Manchester United. His performance against Shamrock Rovers was a little rusty and members of the worldâ€™s press did not hold back in analysing what was just 45 minutes of his first pre-season match.
The game at Shamrock did prove just what a key signing Karim Benzema could be. The French striker proved just what a great finisher he is and his goal will have given coach Manuel Pellegrini a lot of confidence.
In truth though, Real Madridâ€™s team structure is going to be the most important factor in this coming season. Forget the Galacticos, players such as Raul Albiol, Lassana Diarra, Pepe and new signing Esteban Granero will have a lot of work to do to make sure that the forwards can shine, and matches like this are crucial for building the team’s work ethic.
Al Ittihad may not be well known in European football but they are likely to put up a performance in this match. They are the oldest team in Saudi Arabia and are the dominant force in the Kingdom’s football scene in recent years with seven league titles in the last eleven years. The Jeddah outfit are the current Saudi league champions and they arrive at the Peace Cup with a tremendous motivation to record success against the likes of Real Madrid.
The team is capable of causing a headache for major clubs. The squad is comprised of almost entirely of local Saudi Arabian players with the most talented footballer beingÂ 22-year-old striker Nayef Hazaz. The young sensation is already a cornerstone of the Saudi national team and his talents will liekly take him further afield as his career unfolds.
Other names to look out for in Al Ittihad’s squad are captain Mohamed Noor, center-back Hamad Al Montashari and former Lille striker Hicham Aboucherouane. Noor is an excellent right winger with bags of experience in the Saudi national team, Al Montashari was the 2005 Asian Player of The Year and Aboucherouane was the top scorer of the league last season with 12 goals.
Madrid should be wary that the positive atmosphere around the club doesnâ€™t go flat in a match like this. Neutrals will be hoping for a special moment from Ronaldo, Benzema and perhaps Kaka if he plays.
101predicts: Real Madrid 3 – Al Ittihad 0 (11/2)
Full match odds here.