ORLANDO, July 30 ― Bastian Schweinsteiger hopes Atletico Madrid's final game of their US tour won't descend into a flurry of mayhem and red cards when the MLS All-Stars take on Diego Simeone's team tomorrow.
Atletico's 7-3 win over Real Madrid in New Jersey on Friday saw both La Liga clubs reduced to 10 men in an unusually highly charged pre-season encounter.
Atletico continue their preparations for the forthcoming La Liga season when they take on the best of Major League Soccer in Orlando, with a near sell-out crowd of 25,000 expected at Exploria Stadium.
German World Cup winner Schweinsteiger, who plays in MLS for Chicago Fire, believes Simeone's side were fired by the presence of Los Blancos and is adamant his team-mates, coached by Orlando City's James O'Connor, can prosper without kicking lumps out of the opposition.
“Intense games are always good but the other night I am sure the rivalry between the teams also played a part,” Schweinsteiger, the former Bayern Munich and Manchester United midfielder, told AFP.
“I think this will be different ― we don't want to hurt anyone, we just want to play our way and we want to show what is the best of MLS.”
The All-Star game in MLS, like those in the NBA and Major League Baseball, is designed as a mid-season exhibition respite.
Although with Simeone preparing for a strong challenge in La Liga and the Champions League, the Spaniards ― who have spent upwards of €219 million (RM1 billion) this summer following the departures of Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez and Rodri ― will be very competitive.
“I like this All-Star concept a lot, you play with the best players in the league, have a different coach ― this one is Irish ― and we are playing against a top team from Europe so will be a good test,” Schweinsteiger said.
“They have invested a lot of money in new players, they are very strong, very tough and they have a very good coach. It won't be easy but if we show our quality we can definitely compete.
“Their approach is dictated by Simeone. He's done an amazing job over the last five years and they have become one the top teams in Europe. That's why it will be interesting.”
Focus on Felix
Atletico, who take their tour to Mexico at the weekend, remain angry with Barcelona over the sale of French star Antoine Griezmann, whose €120 million transfer was contested by Atletico.
Discussions between the two Spanish giants are on-going, but Simeone refused to be drawn into a war of words with his recently departed striker.
“I value the performance from him,” the Argentine told AFP. “He has answered everything on the field and wish him nothing but the best at Barcelona. And that is it.”
With Griezmann gone, the focus now is on Portuguese wonderkid Joao Felix who was signed earlier this summer from Benfica for €126 million.
Compatriot Nani, who will play for the MLS All-Stars at his home ground tomorrow, predicts a bright future for the 19 year-old midfielder who impressed in the previous match against Real.
“He has been showing his potential to be a future star for Portugal, he had a great season with Benfica last year but he is still young,” the former Manchester United midfielder said.
“He has started well and already shown he is talented so let's see how he gets on.” ― AFP