all set for Milan!

It seems like I’ve been constantly playing catch up during this pre-season, no?  Before I even have a chance to write a game post, it’s time for the next “all set for…” post.  Anyway, Madrid takes on Milan (2oh Wednesday local time, 02h Thursday morning Madrid time) during their first ever visit to the new Yankee Stadium, after having played the NASL’s New York Generals on Aug. 21, 1968 at the original Yankee Stadium (Madrid won that game 4-1).  Since then, they’ve played six more games in New York.

In other news, Marcelo will, with Enzo cheering him on, play in the gold medal match of the 2012 Summer Olympics this Saturday (15h local time, 16h Spain time) when Brazil takes on Mexico. Our big sunshine (since Enzo is the mini one) has started all of Brazil’s matches in the tournament.

Going back to Madrid, and looking back, the team traveled to Las Vegas on Sunday to take on Santos Laguna.

They ended up beating the Mexican champions 2-1, triumphing despite the intense heat (38 to 40 degrees). Xabi Alonso scored in the first half (appropriately, in the 14th minute), and Sami Khedira scored the winning goal inadvertently in the second half, when the ball bounced off his face into the goal after Karim Benzema had a shot at it.  I winced for Sami, but I also laughed.  I didn’t end up watching this game either, only highlights, so how did they do?

Bonus of the bossest thigh you’ll ever see.

As for the rest of the things that have happened since the last time I checked in with all of you, we had many endearing things, including Cristiano making one kid’s dream come true.  Salvador Arena has cancer, and his dream was to meet our Cristiano, so the Make A Wish Foundation made that happen.  During the team’s visit to Las Vegas, Cristiano and Salvador met up, with Cris giving Salvador a shirt with his name on the back, and also autographing the Real Madrid shirt Salvador was wearing.  Cris said of Salvador, “what an amazing kid,” while Salvador said of Cris, “he’s my idol and I wanted to meet him… being with him was a dream come true, a total honor and the best experience of my life.”  During the team’s trip to Las Vegas, they also made time to sign autographs for fans and pose for pictures with them.  I love how awkward Nacho and ABMM look back there.

Speaking of Cristiano and his big heart, AS reported that Cristiano went out on Saturday morning (during the team’s free morning) and bought 11 iPads.  He then gave them as gifts to the four equipment managers, five fisios and two doctors who have accompanied the team during this pre-season tour.

Madrid also announced that Raúl Albiol’s contract has been extended until the end of the 2016-17 season, noting that “his commitment and professionalism during the three seasons he has worn the white shirt have been fundamental for the renewal.”  Yay, (at least) four more years of the twins!  El Chori told Madrid’s web site that he was very happy with the renewal, since that means that the club and coaches have confidence in him, and that he’s very happy at Real Madrid.

As for training, the team held its last two training sessions at UCLA on Monday and Tuesday.  Before the Monday session, the team held an autograph session for fans invited by team sponsors (CAA, Adidas and Bwin).

At the training session, Ángel di María rejoined the team after missing out on the last several sessions and the game, and Esteban Granero was the only absence, leaving right after the warm-up was completed to go work out in the gym.  The last session was held on Tuesday morning.  The top of Cristiano’s thighs are so pale, but it doesn’t appear that Sergio has the same problem… if only I could take a closer look (and in person) to confirm that.

After that, the team traveled to New York.  On the way there, everyone did my least favorite pose, hurting my eyes tremendously.  

Luckily, the canteranos were there to help cleanse the palate (hopefully there’s no original picture where the Fernández brothers’ thumbs up have been cropped out).

They arrived in Newark around 22h local time (five hours of flying time, plus a three-hour time difference).  They then boarded a bus which took them to their hotel, the Four Seasons.  Several of the boys were carrying “UCLA Track” bags.  No doubt these bags were full of things purchased in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, especially by these two, I bet (how many Gucci belts can fit in that bag?  At least 30.  But I hope they left room in their bags for shopping in New York City, which is great!).

The only negative note was the injury to Álex Fernández.  He has a strained ligament in his right knee, and reports say he’ll be out two to three weeks, although he won’t return to Madrid early and will remain with his teammates until the end of the American portion of the pre-season.  Álex tweeted on Tuesday, “thanks to everyone for their encouragement, in the end it wasn’t as serious as it appeared to be, I will try and return as soon as possible, a hug for everyone.”

As for Castilla, they beat Gimnástica de Torrelavega in their latest pre-season friendly 5-0 behind goals from Denis, Quini, Cristián and Óscar Plano, who scored twice.  Today, they play the first team’s old nemesis Alcorcón in their second to last friendly before the Second Division season begins for them, on Aug. 17 at 21h against Villarreal at El Madrigal.  There are also reports that Joselu has signed a four-year contract with Hoffenheim, with the German club paying €6 million to Madrid.  There is a buyback clause in the contract for the first two years, for €9 million and €12 million, respectively.  By the way, Hoffenheim plays Bayer Leverkusen on Nov. 24!

And here are some interesting statistics.  According to Marca, Barça B and Castilla have spent more on signings this summer than 13 first division clubs.  By doling out €1.5 million for Borja García, Castilla has now outspent Real Madrid, Málaga, Atleti, Levante, Osasuna, Mallorca, Betis, Espanyol, Rayo, Zaragoza, Depor, Celta and Valladolid (Barça B spent €1.25 million for Joan Ángel Román).

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