The FedExField in Landover (Maryland) is the venue on Wednesday night for the second game of FC Barcelona’s ten-day visit to the east coast of the United States. After starting the preseason with a 2-1 defeat of Juventus in New Jersey, another fascinating test awaits against Premiership outfit Manchester United.
Normally it’s American fans who have to watch their favourite side at inconvenient hours of the day. But this game at the biggest stadium in the NFL (capacity 82,000) is a 7.35pm CET kick-off local time, while Barça fans watching back home are in for a late night, with the action starting at 1.35am on Thursday morning.
And the atmosphere in and around Washington is already buzzing, with a massive welcome for the players when they arrived at Ronald Reagan Airport and almost 7,000 fans turning up to watch the players train shortly after.
Ernesto Valverde is likely to treat the game in a similar way to his debut against Juve. In that game he fielded a completely different eleven in each half to ensure match action for as many members of his 26-man squad as possible.
Manchester United will need no introduction, and are another side that enjoys humungous support throughout North America. This is of course the team that Barça have met in two Champions League finals this century, and that's managed for the second season by a familiar face in José Mourinho.
As Javier Mascherano pointed out in his pre-game media conference, it’s unusual to be playing such high category opposition so early in the preseason, but it all helps to fast-track the preparations for the start of official competition.
The Red Devils are the current Europa League champions, but the Portuguese coach will clearly have his eye on bigger silverware in 2017/18.
Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelöf have both been added to the English side’s wealth of talent. For the latter, a Swedish international centre back, it’s going to be an unusual experience to be facing Nélson Semedo, who just a couple of months ago was playing alongside him in the Benfica defence. How things have changed for those two…
While Barça still have one more stateside fixture, United will be heading back to Europe after this game. They’re unbeaten so far this preseason, including a 2-0 defeat of local rivals Man City and a victory on penalties against the same Real Madrid side Barça will be facing on Saturday in Miami.