Tuesday 17 October 2017

Barcelona and Celtic set for summer showdown at Aviva

Six years after Limerick's attempts to organise a friendly with Barcelona were halted by the FAI's refusal to sanction a game, the Catalan giants will come to Irish shores to play a friendly with Celtic at the Aviva Stadium (SPORTSFILE)
Six years after Limerick's attempts to organise a friendly with Barcelona were halted by the FAI's refusal to sanction a game, the Catalan giants will come to Irish shores to play a friendly with Celtic at the Aviva Stadium (SPORTSFILE)
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Six years after Limerick's attempts to organise a friendly with Barcelona were halted by the FAI's refusal to sanction a game, the Catalan giants will come to Irish shores to play a friendly with Celtic.

The SPL champions will take on the La Liga side in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, July 30 as part of the International Champions Cup - a pre-season tournament spread across Europe and the USA which is being organised by American company Relevent Sports.

Relevent were the driving force in recent talks between representatives of the leading clubs in the Champions League with a view to restructuring the competition.

They have an Irish link, having also played a part in organising the 2013 friendly with Spain in New York.

The International Champions Cup includes Premier League contestants Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs and surprise league leaders Leicester along with Celtic, Bayern Munich, PSG, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Barcelona.

The vast majority of games will take place in the US but there are stand-alone fixtures in Europe, with Barcelona due to take on Leicester in Sweden four days after their Irish visit.

Their clash with Liverpool on August 6 will be staged in another European destination.

Barcelona were in advanced discussions with representatives of Limerick about coming to Thomond Park in 2010 but the FAI - who hold the power of veto over any match staged in its jurisdiction - said no to the idea.

They cited the impact on the domestic fixture schedule in addition to an agreement with a third party, Endemol, that gave them the rights to any friendly game staged on Irish soil with a capacity in excess of 15,000. Abbotstown officials also said they were in negotiations with Barca about a visit to the Aviva.

Limerick were dissatisfied with the response and took their dispute with the FAI to the High Court before it was resolved privately via a mediation process.

Irish fans will be hoping that Barcelona's marquee names will travel for the meeting with a Celtic side that are accustomed to lining out in Ballsbridge.

Neymar will be unavailable because of his commitment to Brazil's Olympic side, while the participation of Lionel Messi may well depend on the success or otherwise of Argentina's Copa America campaign this summer.

Break

The competition takes place in the USA from June 3 to June 26 and, if Argentina go all the way, Messi could just be returning from his summer break when Dublin comes around.

Luis Suarez will be in the same boat if Uruguay mount a challenge.

Meanwhile, Manchester United have confirmed they will tour China this summer - raising the prospect of a Manchester derby being played in Beijing, with City having already been confirmed for a match in China as part of the International Champions Cup.

If United do face City, it raises the prospect of an early showdown between Pep Guardiola and his old enemy Jose Mourinho, should the latter succeed Louis van Gaal at United this summer.

United confirmed yesterday that they are heading to China on an eight-day tour which will include two matches. It will be the first time they have toured the country since 2013 and the tenth time in all.

The tour to a country where football is enjoying a massive surge in interest around the burgeoning Chinese Super League, whose clubs spent £208m in the most recent transfer window, will satisfy United's high-profile sponsors.

Elsewhere, Arsenal have targeted FC Lorient's Raphael Guerreiro as a potential replacement for the out-of-favour Kieran Gibbs.

Gibbs has been relegated to the role of back-up this season, starting 12 games in all competitions and just three in the league. Nacho Monreal has made himself Arsenal's undisputed first choice, and was rewarded with a new deal in January.

Arsenal will also be receptive to bidders for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

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