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The Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California is the venue for FC Barcelona’s second friendly of the 2015/16 preseason, which kicks off at 1.00pm PST and 10.00pm CET on Saturday 25 July. The 68,500 capacity venue is expected to be packed for the International Champions Cup match with Manchester United, the side Barça beat in the final of the Champions League in both 2009 and 2011.
Barça have been training at the Cox Stadium at San Francisco State University with a squad of 24 players: Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Pedro, Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Rafinha, Bartra, Douglas, Jordi Alba, S. Roberto, Adriano, Vermaelen, Mathieu, Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal, Sandro, Munir and Halilovic from the first team and and three from the reserves (José Suárez, Samper and Gumbau). The only absentees are the five South Americans that were involved in the Copa America in Chile (Claudio Bravo, Leo Messi, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves and Neymar), who are still on vacation.
Neither Arda Turan nor Aleix Vidal will be able to play due to the FIFA suspension but with lenient rules regarding substitutions in this tournament, there should be run-outs for most of other members of the squad in this fixture. Against LA Galaxy on Tuesday, manager Luis Enrique made ten changes to his team in the second half.
After two trophy-less years, Manchester United have their sights set on big things this season. The squad has been bolstered by the arrivals of Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger as they prepare for the start of the Premiership season on August 8. Schweinsteiger will miss the Barça game with a minor injury, but goalkeeper David De Gea is expected to start. Despite rumours regarding the future of Angel Di Maria, manager Louis Van Gaal has insisted that the Argentine striker is joining up with the squad in the US, but that he will not be ready to play any part in this game.
Asked for his impressions after Barça played their first preseason fixture against LA Galaxy, Luis Enrique commented that “I liked the team because we were intense and we did not commit any serious errors, but we can improve in all areas. Without any doubt, we will be the team to beat but we have to improve on the field. Today we did well but we have to do that again and better.”
On the eve of the match against the side he managed for two spells, Louis Van Gaal said that "it is fantastic to play against Barcelona because then you know a little bit if you are at a certain level ... Of course I know that this is pre-season. We know very well that winning is not the real truth because in the season you have to show it - not in the pre-season. The performance is more important than the result."
On Tuesday, FC Barcelona played the Los Angeles Galaxy in their first game since the Champions League Final. In a confident and dominant performance, goals from Luis Suárez and Sergi Roberto either side of half-time put them into a 2-0 lead, with the MLS champions grabbing a consolation goal in the final play of the match. Barça have one more game in America before returning to Europe, against Chelsea on Wednesday 29 at 2.00am CET.
Manchester United will need to get through a qualifying match in order to secure a berth in this season’s Champions League. So far, their preparations in America have gone to plan. They beat Club America of Mexico 1-0 in their opening ICC fixture, new signing Schneiderlin scoring the only goal after just five minutes. And then they defeated MLS side San José Earthquakes 3-1 with goals from Juan Mata, Memphis Depay and Andreas Pereira.
There have been plenty of classic encounters between these two sides over the years, one of the most memorable being the 1991 Cup Winners Cup Final in Rotterdam, in which Mark Hughes scored twice against his former team in a 2-1 win for United. After twice crossing paths in the Champions League group stage, they met in the semi-finals in 2008. Eventual champions United advanced to the final after Paul Scholes scored the only goal in 180 minutes of football. But Barça got their revenge. In the 2009 final in Rome and then again at Wembley in 2011, the Catalans defeated the Red Devils to win their third and fourth European titles.
The last time the sides met was also in a preseason friendly in the States. Man United beat an understrength Barça 2-1 in Washington with goals from Nani and Owen, Thiago pulling one back for FCB.
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