I'm sure that as Real Madrid's plane touched down in Philadelphia yesterday evening, everyone on board was expecting a warm reaction. What they got? A 103 degree reception. (See what I did there? I made a pun on the temperature!). But seriously, there's a major heatwave sweeping through the Northeast of the United States (it's 100 Fahrenheit in New York right now), and I have no doubt that Mourinho will have his players conditioning in mind when he trots out his starting lineup today against the Union.
While I won't be able to do an open thread here, I encourage all of you to check out the coverage that Joey and co. will be doing over at the Brotherly Game, SBN's Philadelphia Union blog. You can watch the game on ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 if you're in the states; otherwise, I'm sure there are some internet channels you can find. Wink.
So here are some things to keep in mind for los blancos going into tonight's game:
- After playing almost every minute of both preseason games, Fabio Coentrão, Madrid's newest signing (and biggest offensive revelation) will not get any minutes tonight. It's too bad for Union fans, because, man is that guy fun to watch!
- Pepe, Sergio Ramos, and Xabi Alonso are all listed as "doubtful" for action tonight, for various reasons. I actually still don't have any official word on what's wrong with any of them, but I'll get it to you as soon as I know.
- Interestingly, the Union has a couple of ex-la Liga-ers: Zaragoza Alum, Mondragón, will start (?) in goal, and ex-Atleti rival Veljko Paunovic (who apparently loves playing in the United States) should see some minutes.
- What the attack looks like without Coentrão. The quick Portuguese catch-all player has been absolutely everywhere for Madrid throughout the preseason, and has, in many cases, been the offensive catalyst for the team. So what will this "new" Madrid look like without him? Should be interesting.
- Will Ronaldo keep up his frenetic pace? Against Chivas he scored three goals in 10 minutes. He scored a sick strike against the Galaxy. He looks better with every game (and every year), so you should expect him to put on a show, unless...
- ...it's way too hot. If it stays this hot, look to see how Mourinho manages the substitutions, because there is some real injury potential here. Heat makes players get tired more quickly; an especially during the preseason, when the players haven't built up a whole lot of stamina, this can lead to injuries.
- It's spelled V-A-R-A-N-E! This is mostly a note to myself, as I called him "Verane" for much of the last match. Oops. Look for the young Frenchman to get a good deal of minutes tonight, and to get tested, too: the Union are one of the best teams in MLS this year, and play a strong counter-attacking game. It'll be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure.
- Mesut finally has number 10. After it eluded him his entire career (he never wore it in the Bundesliga or on the national team), Mesut Özil has finally been rewarded with the famous number 10 for Real Madrid. I'm sure he'll fill out Puskas' shirt with flying colors. (See image above).
Oh, and here's a seemingly endless stream of Real Madrid technical staff and players emerging from a bus in Philly. If you're into really boring videos of people getting off buses, then check it out: