Melbourne, March 2 (IANS) Spanish powerhouse Atletico Madrid has become the latest club to sign on for Australia’s International Champions Cup (ICC) in July.
The La Liga club joins Italian Serie A champions Juventus, English Premier League (EPL) title challenger Tottenham Hotspur and local heavyweights Melbourne Victory for the pre-season tournament to be hosted exclusively at the world-famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), reports Xinhua.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone, who led the Spanish outfit to the UEFA Champions League final in 2014, said the new tournament would provide the ideal lead-up for the 2016-17 season.
“The team and I can’t wait to come and play in Melbourne and visit a country as exciting as Australia, sharing with the fans its passion for football,” Simeone said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It’s fantastic to be part of such a high caliber tournament with some of the best teams in Europe and the A-League’s most successful side, Melbourne Victory.
“This competition will form a key part of our pre-season training and will be a great opportunity for me to put my players through their paces ahead of the new season.”
Atletico — who currently sit second on the La Liga table, ahead of their cross-town rivals Real Madrid — features the likes of young French star Antoine Griezmann, world-class defender Diego Godin and Spanish playmaker Koke.
“It’s amazing to have the chance to play at the MCG as part of our preparation for next season,” Griezmann, who has scored 40 goals in all competitions this season, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tournament organizers followed the same formula as last year’s inaugural ICC competition, when they selected teams from England (Manchester City), Italy (AS Roma) and Spain (Real Madrid).
The first running of the week-long competition was praised as a huge success domestically, with the match between the Cristiano Ronaldo-led Real Madrid and Manchester City drawing a bumper crowd of 99,382 fans — the largest football crowd in the MCG’s history.
The tournament will begin on July 23 with Victory taking on 31-time Serie A champions Juventus. The Italian club will then play north London based Tottenham three days later.
Atletico will only play one game in Australia, closing out the tournament against Tottenham on July 29.