Reigning European kings Barcelona and English Premier League champions Chelsea, each training in the first steps of defending their crowns, meet Tuesday in a pre-season friendly in suburban Washington.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says evaluating talent and testing combinations is more important than winning, even with the International Champions Cup tournament linking numerous pre-season matches for some of the world’s top clubs as they fill huge stadiums in a rare treat for US fans.
“This is a match in which you are not obsessed with the result,” Mourinho said. “You want to train. You make changes in the team because you have a plan for a certain amount of minutes, but all the people make it a big atmosphere.”
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique likes the idea of facing top-flight foes early in training. His side became the first European club to sweep the treble twice after taking the Champions League and La Liga plus the Copa del Rey last season, six years after first achieving the feat.
“At this point of the pre-season we’ve got a good tempo,” Enrique said. “It’s really effective to play against top-level sides. It’s interesting. It’s important to see players in these types of games. They can show what they are able to do.”
Both clubs are off the pace in the trophy chase for the pre-season event. Chelsea dropped an opener 4-2 to the New York Red Bulls while beating Paris St. Germain 6-5 on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 draw. Barcelona vanquished the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 to start but fell 3-1 Saturday to Manchester United.
Barcelona have used a depleted squad missing such stars as Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar, both excused after playing in the Copa America.
Chelsea had been without Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, on loan to the Blues from Monaco, due to Copa America service. But he and countryman Juan Cuadrado and Willian each played 20 minutes against PSG. Falcao pleased Mourinho in his Chelsea debut.
“He was not so tired as the others. He trained two days and the others 10 days and they are accumulating fatigue,” Mourinho said. “Falcao, Willian and Juan Cuadrado are with the sharpness but without the fatigue so they looked good. It was good for them to play this 20 minutes. And it was good for Falcao from the penalty spot to put the ball in the net.”
Enrique used midfielder Sergi Roberto on the backline against Manchester United after benching Brazilian defender Douglas for soreness and liked what he saw.
“Sergi Roberto at right back is an option,” Enrique said. “The more options we have the better. He looked good playing at fullback.”
Mourinho noted the growth in interest by Americans in football, citing his inability to anonymously move around US cities.
“Ten years ago when my players and I walked down the street it was paradise,” the Portugese coach said. “Now it’s not paradise anymore. So I think people know us.” – Agence France-Presse