MIAMI — A meeting of two giant clubs from Spain and Mexico will set a new attendance record for South Florida soccer on Wednesday in the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge match between FC Barcelona and CD Guadalajara from Sun Life Stadium (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and Galavisión).
More than 60,000 fans will be on hand for a match-up of two similarly dynamic, possession-oriented, attack-minded teams that play a wide-open style and trust in their younger academy products to carry through that same system of play.
While both teams enter the match winless thus far in the World Football Challenge, Guadalajara should enjoy the fitness edge as they plays their third Mexican league match this Saturday against Pumas UNAM. FC Barcelona face Real Madrid in their first competitive match of the season on Aug. 14.
This will mark the third time the two clubs have faced each other in the last four years. Back in 2008, FC Barcelona beat Chivas 5-2 at Soldier Field in a match which saw Javier “Chicharito” Hernández net a goal. One year later, the two sides tied 1-1 in San Francisco with the now departed Bojan Krkic canceling out a goal by former Chivas legend Ramón Morales. Their only other meeting in 2006 in front of 92,000 fans at the LA Coliseum ended 1-1 as well.
Another one of the storylines of the match involves the two managers. Barcelona’s Josep “Pep” Guardiola closed out his career in Mexico with Dorados of Sinaloa in the 2005-2006, when current Chivas manager José Luis Real was the sporting director for the club.
The 2-1 loss to Manchester United in their World Football Challenge debut last weekend did not create much alarm in Barça’s camp, especially since the defeat came early in the Spanish champions’ preseason (1-1-2 in four matches). However, as they continue to build up their fitness, the Blaugrana will hope to generate better scoring opportunities against Chivas on Wednesday.
Although the team will be missing injured forward Ibrahim Afellay, Sporting Clube de Portugal transfer target Jeffren Suárez, recovering defenders Carles Puyol and Maxwell, in addition to five members of its South American contingent still on vacation (Lionel Messi, Gabriel Milito, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves and Alexis Sánchez), manager Pep Guardiola can count on reinforcements in his club’s first-ever match in Miami.
Brazilian fullback Adriano has rejoined the team a week early and defender Sergi Gómez and forward Gerard Deulofeu took to the field for practice on Tuesday night after helping Spain win the Under-19 European championship in Romania against the Czech Republic. Star players Xavi Hernández and Gerard Piqué are also expected to get a dose of minutes on Wednesday after starting off slowly to safeguard Achilles and calf injuries, respectively.
This young all-Mexican side led by Real is off to a strong start in league play, with two victories against Atlante and Jaguares that offset Chivas’ two World Football Challenge losses to Real Madrid and Juventus. The confidence gained during league play will be put to the test against the European champions.
Real has been upfront in his plans to start his regular lineup against FC Barcelona. While likely to lose defender Jonny Magallón to a muscle strain, Guadalajara will gain a veteran defender as Héctor Reynoso rejoins the fold, claiming he now feels 100 percent after injuring an adductor against Real Madrid in the club’s first 2011 World Football Challenge appearance.
While forward Omar Arellano leads the team with two of the club’s four goals in league play, the club will be missing five of its top young players, including Erick “Cubo” Torres, due to their participation in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with Mexico.
FC BARCELONA: Thiago Alcántara
The midfielder continued his magical run with his fourth goal in the last three preseason matches for Barcelona. He’s quick, extremely technical and showed against Manchester United he can strike from distance. Will his coming out party rage on?
CD GUADALAJARA: Marco Fabián
The 22-year-old, who already has a goal to his credit in league play, has the talent to take over matches and his form will determine how well Chivas can threaten Barcelona’s back line, if at all.