Everton meet Real Madrid at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the first of the International Champions Cup semi-finals, a marquee match-up set by the Blues' win over Juventus and the Spanish titans' comfortable victory over LA Galaxy in Phoenix.
Though the eight-team tournament is ostensibly
a series of exhibition games aimed at tuning fitness ahead of the European clubs' domestic seasons, there has been no shortage of commitment shown in the matches thus far — Juventus were certainly in uncompromising mood on Wednesday while there was a straight red card shown and blood spilled on Thursday evening when Chelsea met Internazionale in Indianapolis.
And the limited number of substitutes Roberto Martinez used in San Francisco might hint at the Everton boss' desire to make the final of this inaugural tournament next week so there could well be an edge to this encounter as well.
On one level, this is perhaps just another pre-season workout, fitness barometer, selection guide and focus sharperner for the mid-August kick-off of the far more significant Premier League. But at another level many Evertonians will see this as an all-too-rare opportunity for the Royal Blues to go toe-to-toe up against one of the real and perennial giants of European and World football. Such occasions have admittedly been few and far between in the recent annals of Everton Football Club.
And the import of this occasion is nicely reflected in national prime-time live Saturday evening coverage across the USA on one of their four major national TV networks. That in itself is something of a rarity.
Roberto Martinez has already demonstrated he is very comfortable pitting his sides against the best in the world. One thing to be hoped for tonight is that he instills that sense of pride and ambition throughout the ranks of his charges and sets them up to play their best before this unique American and world audience.
Martinez is expected to make changes, though, as he looks to share playing time between his players with the Premier League season just two weeks away. The likes of Nikica Jelavic, who played no part in San Francisco, could be handed starting berths and the occasion of playing top-class Spanish opposition would be the ideal setting for Evertonians to get their first glimpse of Gerard Deulofeu, either as a starter in place of Kevin Mirallas, who has seen plenty of action thus far, or as a substitute later on.
The winner moves on to the final in Miami on Wednesday, but under what appears to be a fluid point-scoring system, another shootout would complicate the seeding for the loser depending on the result between Juventus and Galaxy this evening - victory for the Italians would see them finish with a better point total and put them as higher seeds for the 3rd - 6th place playoffs.
Kick off is at 5:06pm PDT on Saturday evening (1:06am BST on Sunday morning in UK) and the game is being carried live by evertontv and in the US by the national Fox network.
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