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FedExField, home of the National Football League's Washington Redskins, is the venue for FC Barcelona’s third friendly of the 2015/16 preseason, which kicks off on Tuesday 28 July at 8.00pm local time and on Wednesday morning at 2.00am CET in Barcelona. The 74,000 capacity venue in Landover, Prince George’s County, Maryland is expected to be packed for the International Champions Cup match with a familiar foe on the Champions League scene in recent years, current Premiership champions Chelsea.
Barça have been training at American University in Washington DC since the travelling squad of 24 arrived on the East Coast. 21 of these are from the first team (Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Pedro, Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Rafinha, Bartra, Douglas, Jordi Alba, S. Roberto, Adriano, Vermaelen, Mathieu, Arda Turan, Vidal, Sandro, Munir and Halilovic) and the other three are from Barça B (José Suárez, Samper and Gumbau). The five South Americans that were involved in the Copa América in Chile (Bravo, Messi, Mascherano, Alves and Neymar) are not due back from vacation until the US Tour is over.
Neither Arda Turan nor Aleix Vidal are able to play due to the FIFA sanction, and Rafinha is doubtful with back trouble, but with lenient rules regarding substitutions in this tournament, the vast majority of the other players are likely to get time on the field at some point.
Chelsea’s three Copa América players, Falcao and Juan Cuadrado of Colombia and Willian of Brazil, have reported back for duty and, after only playing a bit part in the Blues’ previous friendly, are expected to feature more prominently against the Catalans.
Barça manager Luis Enrique insists that he is unfazed by the defeat to Manchester United on Saturday, stressing the fact that although it is a pleasure to be involved in the ICC, “these games serve to complete our preparations and get ready for the start of the official season.” The actual results are a relatively minor issue to him.
Chelsea boss José Mourinho, who was once at Barça as an assistant to Bobby Robson, would seem to agree with that view. “The game against Paris was a very good one; against Barcelona it can be an even better one,” he said from the team’s base in Montreal, Canada. “I’m not worried about tactical aspects, and I’m not worried about the result. I’m just worried about the possibility to play at a higher intensity and prepare ourselves for the Premier League … Obviously nobody likes to lose even in training but if we wanted to win we would choose opponents where we could win easily.”
FC Barcelona got their tour off to a positive start, winning 2-1 against the MLS champions Los Angeles Galaxy, the goals scored by Luis Suárez and Sergi Roberto. But their second game on American soil ended in 3-1 defeat to Manchester United, Barça’s only goal an absolute beauty struck home by Rafinha. They end their participation in the ICC with a game at Fiorentina on Sunday and on Wednesday 8 August take on another Italian side, AS Roma, in the Joan Gamper match, Barça's first appearance of the new season at the Camp Nou.
Chelsea began their trip with 4-2 defeat to MLS club the New York Red Bulls. Their goals came courtesy of Loïc Remy and Eden Hazard. They then drew 1-1 with Paris Saint-Germain in Charlotte, their equaliser scored by Victor Moses after former Barça striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic had put the French side ahead. The ICC rules dictate that tied matches are decided by penalties, and the Londoners ended up winning the shootout. Just four days after the game with FCB, Chelsea will face Arsenal for the FA Community Shield. Following a midweek friendly with Fiorentina, their Premiership defence begins on August 8 against Swansea City.
A series of crunch Champions League encounters since the turn of the century have made this match-up one of Europe’s biggest cross-border rivalries. In the year 2000, Barça won a memorable knockout match 6-4 on aggregate, but five years later it was Chelsea who went through, 5-4.
Barça got their revenge the following season, qualifying by virtue of the away goals rule, and the same thing happened in the 2009 semi-final, when Andrés Iniesta scored that unforgettable goal with the final kick of the game at Stamford Bridge. They also met in the 2012 semis, Chelsea winning 3-2 on aggregate and going on to beat Bayern Munich in the final to collect their first continental crown.
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