Houston, Texas is once again the center of the soccer universe as European power AC MIlan (18 international titles) and 11 time Mexican League (Liga MX) champion Chivas de Guadalajara prepare to take the pitch in an historic first ever meeting between the two clubs at NRG Park on Wednesday August 6, 2014. The 8:00 p.m. match is hosted by Relevent Sports and Lonestar Sports and Entertainment.
NRG formerly Reliant Stadium and Houston have hosted some of the most prominent games and biggest tournaments in the history of soccer. In 2003, Houston with a crowd of more than 60,000 fans was home to the USA/Mexico game in with what was then a record setting attendance in Texas history. In more recent years, Houston and Reliant have hosted the 2010 MLS All-Star game versus Manchester United, the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup game, the 2012 Mexico/Venezuela match and most recently Mexico versus Nigeria on May 21, 2013. Houston, itself has played host to the Mexican national team 13 times over the last decade as well as a handful of USMNT and USWNT games. Houston was also a host city for the five friendlies leading up to the 2014 World Cup.
AC Milan, currently in the midst of a three game winless streak in friendly match, coach (manager) Filippo Inzaghi looks to get back on track in the face of the upcoming regular season on August 16th. Inzaghi is expected to continue with his traditional 4-3-3 formation, something which proved quite successful for him with Italian Milan youth team. He fields a full complement of players including World Cup forward Mario Balotelli. The newly appointed coach is still trying to find the right combination of defense led by recently acquired Brazilian defender Alex, Ignazio Abate and Mattia de Sciglio. The midfield will need some energy and intensity from the likes of Riccardo Saponara, Sulley Muntari and Michael Eissen.
Can Italian Serie A AC Milan contain Carlos Salcido, one of Mexico's and Chivas' most accomplished players and the rest of Carlos Busto's squad? Chivas most likely will display the same 5-2-3 formation it had in its 1-0 loss to Bundeslia powerhouse Bayern Munich nearly a week ago. The all-Mexican side will need a strong performance from defender Jair Pereira, midfielder Fernando Arceas and Carlos Fierro leaving little doubt that just like that match and given the historical significance of this first ever meeting between these two teams, this friendly may not in the end be so friendly.
"Fabio Capello, currently the Russian national team coach and former Italian star, said there is no such thing as a friendly match prior to the Real Madrid/AS Roma match at Giants Stadium in 2002," reminded Charlie Stillitano, CEO and President of Relevent Sports. "Just like those two teams meeting for the first time, this first time meeting for these two teams will be one of pride. In front of each other and thousands of people it won't be friendly but it will be a game filled with passion for the fans. Historically," Sillitano continued. "For two great teams meeting for the first time nether will want to saty they had a bad game. I expect a really exciting match."
Chivas which has experience against international soccer giants is not taking this game lightly despite already having started their Liga MX season back home.
"It is a pleasure to come here and play an international game against AC Milan," said Chivas sporting director "Paco" Palencia. It is really, really important for us to come here and take this game seriously. We will come with a full roster."
With full rosters and bragging rights on the line for the first ever win in the first ever meeting between these two storied teams, there is little doubt that this will be a game filled with excitement and be anything but friendly.