There is good news and bad news for South Florida fans of Bayern Munich and the Colombian national team.
First, the good news: James Rodriguez joined his teammates at their Miami hotel Friday and planned to be at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday night for the International Champions Cup friendly against English Premier League champion Manchester City. It is the first time Rodriguez is with his German club team since an extended vacation after Colombia’s exit from the World Cup in Russia.
The bad news? Rodriguez is not expected to play, as he has not trained and is coming off a calf injury.
Bayern Munich, the defending Bundesliga champion, has 12 World Cup players on its roster, and most of them returned to training in Munich on Wednesday after post-Cup vacations. According to the newspaper Bild, Thomas Muller, Leon Gortezka, Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Süle, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski and Sebastian Rudy reported back to the team’s camp, but will not be in Miami.
World Cup winner Corentin Tolisso of the French team and Spaniard Thiago Alcantara, the subject of transfer rumors, are still on holiday.
Bayern enters the game coming off a 2-0 loss to Juventus and a 3-1 victory over Paris Saint Germain. New manager Niko Kovac has had a chance to use teenagers such as 17-year-old Joshua Zirkzee, 18-year-old Chris Richards and 19-year-old Paul Will alongside veterans Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and David Alaba.
Manchester City, favored to defend its Premier League title, is in a similar situation. Sixteen first-team players are missing from the U.S. tour due to post-Cup holidays and injuries. Manager Pep Guardiola has fielded a team that includes 17-year-old Eric Garcia, 18-year-old Luke Bolton, and 18-year-old Phil Foden, a 5-7 dynamic player who led England to the 2017 Under-17 World Cup title.
Another young player getting playing time is 21-year-old Jack Harrison, who was born in England, spent his teenage years in Massachusetts, played in Major League Soccer for New York City FC, and then went to ManCity.
Veterans Joe Hart, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy are expected to play. The biggest story has been the debut of Algerian national Riyad Mahrez, who signed from Leicester City with a $78 million transfer fee.
“It was amazing what these players have done for 75 minutes against that team, one that played for the Champions League,” Guardiola said after a 2-1 loss to Liverpool at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. “I am so, so proud. I am happy to be manager of these guys for that reason. The average age was 19, so good.”
Although ICC teams are missing key players, the chance to compete against world-class competition in first-class facilities makes the trek to the United States worthwhile, said former players Paul Dickov, traveling with Manchester City, and Steve McManaman, promoting La Liga’s U.S. tours.
“The major teams prefer to play against high-quality opposition and they are so professional and have plenty of money to spend and they want everything to be perfect, and you know you’ll get that when you come to the USA,” McManaman said. “The training facilities are amazing here. You know the climate will be good. [Manchester United manager] Jose Mourinho loves coming on U.S. tours because he knows there’ll be no surprises. He knows the facilities and state of the pitches are amazing, the hotels and food will be great, the training will be on time. And the fan base is passionate and growing. Everything is 10 out of 10.”
Dickov agreed: “From Manchester City’s perspective, you’ve got some of the best sporting facilities in the world in the U.S. The growth of Premier League support is growing, the knowledge of the fans. Last year’s ICC preseason was the start of a record-breaking Premier League season for ManCity. These are the top clubs of the world, and it’s great the ICC can get them over here.”
McManaman and Dickov both expect Manchester City to be the team to beat in the EPL again this season.
“The players we’ve got are fantastic, and what they did last year is sensational, breaking records left, right and center,” Dickov said. “You’ve got Pep Guardiola, the best coach in the world, pushing them to be better again. This is a young team – seven to 10 under the age of 24 – and they’re growing together. Their attacking style, their spirit, it’s going to be tough for the other teams to catch up.”