Villarreal is in Badajoz, a Spanish town close to the Portuguese border, for a match with Sporting Lisbon this evening. This marks the relaunch of the Trofeo Ibérico de Extramadura, a competition that used to be held in the 1980’s and early 1990’s every year, before the local Badajoz football club got into financial problems. This will be the first staging of the tournament since 2005, when Atletico Madrid defeated Sporting 3-1.
Villarreal will return home following the match, train at the Sports City for a few more days, and then fly to Portugal proper to face Braga on July 30.
Sporting Lisbon (strictly speaking, Sporting Clube de Portugal, or Sporting CP) are one of the ‘Big Three’ clubs in Portugal, Porto and Benfica being the others. They have played some tough friendlies already this summer without much success, losing to Zenit, PSV and Lyon. Word is Euro 2016 breakthrough guy João Mário will be left out of the squad pending a move abroad (€40-50m transfer fees are being rumored).
Sporting have several other players who featured on the Portugal national team, including keeper Rui Patricio and William Carvalho. Other players on their squad include Costa Rica international Bryan Ruiz, Uruguay centerback Sebastian Coates and veteran midfielder Alberto Aquilani.
They finished second in the league last year and will be in the Champions League Group Stage, though will be seeded 3rd or 4th in their group.
It looks as though the match will start with something similar to what Villarreal did a couple of years ago in the Trofeo Ceramico; Sporting have ‘signed’ a 5 year-old pediatric cancer patient, Francisco. Here’s a photo of him—looks like he has the captain’s armband!