WFC Preview: Chelsea, AC Milan do battle again on US soil
It’s them two again.
Chelsea vs. AC Milan has become the match-up par excellence when it comes to the annual summer slate of international matches held in the USA. On Saturday night the two European giants get set for their fifth battle on US soil since 2004 when they meet at SunLife Stadium in the 2012 Herbalife World Football Challenge (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).
Chelsea's recent stretch of results, however, would not make them the favorites for this latest match-up. The defending European champs only drew 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain last Sunday and then dropped a 3-2 result to the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday.
The heavy legs from preseason training and a significant dose of travel across the USA have apparently caught up to Chelsea, who won their opening fixture in the 2012 WFC 4-2 against Seattle Sounders.
Although the UEFA Champions League winners are creating fewer and fewer scoring chances, Blues manager Roberto Di Matteo highlighted one positive: the fact that his squad has survived the three matches thus far in the USA without major injuries, making all players available against Milan.
Di Matteo will also get his first glimpse at Fernando Torres, who made his return from Spain's triumphant Euro participation. Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Oriul Romeu (Spain), Juan Mata (Spain) and Daniel Sturridge (Great Britain) are still out on national team duty at the London Olympics.
AC Milan can blame the Olympics for the absence of Brazilian Alexandre Pato, as they look to show the world they can overcome the transfers of stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. Similar to Chelsea, they will also be working in some key players — five in total — returning from Euro 2012 duty.
The Italian Serie A runners-up are coming off a 1-0 victory in midweek at Schalke 04 in Germany on a lone goal by Urby Emanuelson. That followed losses to rivals Inter Milan and Juventus in abbreviated 45-minute matches played in Bari, Italy.
While Saturday night's match brings a close to Chelsea's US tour, AC Milan move on to face Honduran side Olimpia at Gillette Stadium (Aug. 4) and then battle Real Madrid at Yankee Stadium (Aug. 8) in one of the premier match-ups of this season’s WFC.
The rossoneri kick off their season on Aug. 26 against Sampdoria, while Chelsea's campaign begins in earnest with the traditional Charity Shield match against Manchester City on Aug. 12.