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Arguably the most ambitious friendly tournament ever organised gets underway on the 24th July when the Peace Cup 2009 starts with LDU Quito against Al-Ittihad...


This will be the first season that the Peace Cup has involved 12 participants, and also the first time it has been hosted in Europe. As a biennial tournament it was initially hosted in South Korea, and in 2007 brought together eight teams. With the tournament expanded to include four more teams and relocated to Europe, the 2009 entry list surpasses anything previously attempted as the organisers look to make the Peace Cup a permanent fixture on the pre-season calendar.

The line-up is certainly an ambitious one - some of the world's biggest global names assembled to compete in this year's competition. With 142 League titles shared amongst the twelve participants, including a record 31 La Liga titles for Real Madrid and 27 Serie A wins for Juventus, 89 domestic cup honours and 34 continental prizes, practically every title worth winning at club level has been won by at least one of the teams at the competition.

In it to win it?

Attention is certain to be dominated by several key teams, but every team has its reason for participating in the Peace Cup 2009.

Real Madrid will be keen to assert themselves on the competition and vindicate their intense summer of transfer activity. Fans and pundits alike will assess the virtue of record breaking purchases such as Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, who both should get some opportunity to impress. For some of the fringe members at Real Madrid, it may be a chance to re-establish their credentials under new coach Manuel Pellegrini.

For the likes of Juventus, Porto, Sevilla and Malaga the Peace Cup will be a chance to get some initial pre-season football in. As their leagues don't start until relatively late in August, the majority of these sides haven't played a great deal of pre-season football thus far. Nevertheless the pressure will be on Sevilla and Malaga as hosts of the Peace Cup, playing in front of their own fans, to impress.

Coaches will be keen to get their players back into the routine of playing regular football after a summer off, so the touch is bound to be slightly rusty and timing not quite right yet. It will also be a chance to run the rule over the new signings such as Diego, who arrived at Juventus from Werder Bremen, or Fernando Belluschi, the former River Plate midfielder, who was snapped up by Porto from Greek football.

Lyon, Besiktas and Aston Villa will all be looking at the Peace Cup more seriously, as their leagues kick-off much sooner. With a good deal of pre-season football behind them already, the Peace Cup 2009 is one of the final chances to fine tune the team. Therefore, the starting line-ups from the likes of Claude Puel at Lyon or Mustafa Dinizli at Besiktas may well come close to what they consider their first choice starting XI.

The Americas contingent of Atlante and LDU Quito are also on the verge of restarting their national championships. Atlante will be using the tournament as good practice before their first ever appearance at the FIFA World Club Championship late in the year, a reward for winning the North American Champions League in 2008.

The 2008 winners of the Copa Libertadores, LDU Quito, may have been succeeded recently by Estudiantes, but they have kept their squad largely intact and will be hopeful of springing a surprise on Real Madrid in their group. They are also midway through their league campaign, and are well positioned to take their tenth Ecuadorian league title.

Asia is represented by two of the biggest names from that continent. Al-Ittihad are winners of the Asian Champions League on two occasions in the last decade, and the Saudi team will be looking to get their new season off to a flying start with a good performance at the Peace Cup. Seongnam are midway through their league season and struggling to meet expectations; the seven-time winners of the K-League are languishing mid-table so they'll be using the Peace Cup as a chance to spark a run of form.

Pre-season pressure

With only one team progressing from each three-team group, the pressure will certainly be on from the outset to get a result and bag a semi-final berth. With all four groups containing big names, picking out winners is going to be tricky.

Although at heart a pre-season friendly tournament, the fact remains that such an exciting range of continental teams has seldom been assembled for such a competition. It will he fascinating to see how teams cope with the adjustment of playing a team from a different continent. With little opportunity for pre-match scouting, how the management and players evolve to tackle their opposition will be an interesting element. This is seldom required over the course of usual league and cup football.

Join Goal.com for the Peace Cup 2009

Goal.com are official online content partners for the Peace Cup 2009, so be certain to visit the site regularly to get updates on all the news and scores as some of the world's biggest sides clash in this prestigious tournament.

[Walter Townsend, Goal.com]

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