ICC 2017 ideal preparation for Real Madrid season - Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said he is looking forward to a testing International Champions Cup schedule in the United States this summer, including a Clasico against Barcelona and challenges against Manchester United and Manchester City, as ideal preparation for a successful 2017-18 campaign.
The La Liga and Champions League holders head to UCLA on July 10 to begin preseason training, with their ICC schedule in the U.S. including high-profile meetings with Jose Mourinho's Manchester United on July 23 in Santa Clara, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City on July 26 in Los Angeles and Ernesto Valverde's Barcelona on July 29 in Miami, as well the MLS All-Stars game on Aug. 2 in Chicago.
Zinedine Zidane's men are then back to Europe for another meeting with Mourinho's United in the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje on Aug. 8, then two more Clasicos against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup double-header the week before the La Liga season is scheduled to start on Aug. 19, pending confirmation.
Ramos told a commercial event that meeting top-class opponents in preseason allowed him and his teammates to get up to the high level required as quickly as possible.
"It will be nice," the Spain international said. "In preseason we usually have difficult games, this year even more with the Clasico in Miami. I am really looking forward to it arriving now, and looking to get back fit as soon as possible.
"We are measuring ourselves against teams who we will be facing a month later. Playing for more titles will be a great experience."
Even after Zidane's men became the first side to win back-to-back Champions League titles in the modern era, they would be "starting from zero" again once the new campaign began, Ramos said.
"Three Champions Leagues in four years is crazy," he said. "You have to put your goals as high as possible and try and do better every year. Now we must reset and start again at zero, forget about what we have achieved, we cannot live in the past.
"Now we aim again to get the best consistency possible, the team is competing at an extraordinary level."
Meanwhile, United winger Jesse Lingard said everyone at the Old Trafford outfit would also be using their games against LA Galaxy in Los Angeles (July 15), Real Salt Lake in Salt Lake City (July 17), Manchester City in Houston (July 20), Madrid in Santa Clara (July 23) and Barcelona in Washington, D.C. (July 26) to get up and running for 2017-18.
"We're used to playing top teams in preseason, such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, and it's always a good experience," he told ManUtd.com. "Hopefully, we can perform well in those games and take good form into the new season.
"Every tour game is important, even if it's just to build match fitness, and it's good that everyone can get a run out and get a taste of what it's like and take that forward."
Lingard, now 24, recalled playing as an emerging youngster in a 3-1 win over Barcelona in Santa Clara in 2015, and said such summer tours made for good opportunities for kids to make a name for themselves.
"It'll be good to be back playing at that stadium," the England international said. "I remember the team we had in the second half was quite a young team, including myself, Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, Tyler Blackett and James Wilson, but we linked up really well and got the win.
"This year, I'm most looking forward to the games themselves and building team spirit with the lads. Preseason tours are good for bonding with each other, and in our free time there's the chance to go out and explore."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan