Everton’s final match of the International Champions Cup will be another prestigious game against Spanish giants Valencia. The two times Champions League finalists are considered the third biggest side in Spain and will represent another serious challenge for the Blues ahead of the new season.
Like Everton, Valencia have appointed a new manager this summer, with former club legend Miroslav Dukic taking over after the club finished just outside the Champions League places last season. Valencia, or Los Che as they are commonly known, are in a stage of transition and have become very much a selling club in recent years with star players Juan Mata, David Silva, David Villa and more recently Roberto Soldado leaving the club for substantial transfer fees. The club are burdened with significant debt and have abandoned a half built new stadium due to the rising cost of construction and trouble in raising the necessary capital to complete the €250 million project.
Despite this Valencia have a highly talented squad and comfortably defeated Inter Milan 4-0 on Sunday evening. This followed a 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in their opening game of the competition, with the match actually taking place at the Mestalla in Valencia, the only game in the tournament to be played outside of the USA. Midfielders Ever Benega, who was linked to a move to Everton 3 years ago and former Real Madrid player Sergio Canalas are the most well-known names in the squad, but with Soldado joining Tottenham, they do appear a little short in attack.
The final series of games will take place at the 75,000 capacity Sun Life Stadium in Miami. The ground is the home of American Football side the Miami Dolphins and will be the hottest venue of the tournament, with temperatures expected to hit 30 degree centigrade. The Blues will be the second match of the day, kicking off at 9pm local time, or 2am Wednesday morning in the UK.
Unfortunately the tournament does appear to have been overshadowed in the last 48 hours by the controversy over seedings and positioning in the tournament. The International Champions Cup was originally advertised as a straight knock-out competition and after Everton defeated Juventus in their opening fixture, the Blues presumed they had progressed to a semi-final. Bizarrely that is not the case, and the results over the first two games decided the positioning of the final round of matches, with Everton playing for 5th spot, rather than 3rd as previously announced. Putting this aside, Everton have got a lot out of the tournament and it has been a real pleasure for Evertonians, who have travelled over to America or remained awake until the early hours to watch the Blues take on some of Europe’s finest sides. The quality of opposition has been first class and Roberto Martinez will have learned a lot about his new squad ahead of the opening games against Norwich.
Martinez has already demonstrated a willingness to rotate his squad during the pre-season fixtures and those players who have yet to feature are expected to get some game time in the final match of the tour. This will mean Shane Duffy, Vellios, Hibbert and Joel playing some part, although it may be as late substitutes, with all four expected to miss out on starting spots when the season kicks off.
Squad: Joel, Howard, Springthorpe; Hibbert, Coleman, Oviedo, Baines, Heitinga, Jagielka, Distin, Stones, Duffy; Gibson, Osman, Fellaini, Barkley, Pienaar, Mirallas, Naismith, Deulofeu; Jelavic, Kone, Anichebe, Vellios.