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Juventus, Real Madrid stars share why they want to put on a show at the Rose Bowl

Juventus forward Ángel Di María tries to dribble away from Barcelona's Jordi Alba and Pierre Emeric Aubameyang.
Juventus forward Ángel Di María tries to dribble away from Barcelona defender Jordi Alba, rear, and forward Pierre Emeric Aubameyang, left, during a match at the Cotton Bowl on Tuesday.
(Jeffrey McWhorter / Associated Press)
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For someone who has played soccer as long and changed clubs as often as Ángel Di María, it’s not uncommon to find yourself playing against the shirt you once wore.

Which is exactly what Di María will experience Saturday when the newly acquired Juventus midfielder faces Real Madrid in a preseason friendly at the Rose Bowl.

Di María, who won six trophies in five seasons with Real Madrid, signed with Juventus three weeks ago after a seven-year stay at Paris Saint-Germain. At 34, he’s hoping to make a push for a fourth World Cup with Argentina, where his 122 caps trail only Lionel Messi among active players. To do that, he’ll have to prove his fitness quickly after making just 22 starts in all competition last season, his fewest in a decade.

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“From the day I arrived, my colleagues treated me spectacularly and they all integrated me very quickly into the group,” Di María said in Spanish. “That for me is important.”

Di María and midfielder Paul Pogba, who played last season with Manchester United, are among four major additions Juventus made during the summer transfer window. Getting them familiar with the team’s style and their new teammates has been a major focus of the club’s three-game preseason in the U.S., its first since 2018.

Ángel Di María raises his arms after receiving a medal on the field.
Argentina’s Ángel Di María celebrates after receiving a medal at the end of the Finalissima match between Italy and Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1.
(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)

Di María started the first two games, playing 122 minutes combined in a 2-0 win over Chivas in Las Vegas and a 2-2 draw with Barcelona in Dallas. He made previous U.S. visits with Real Madrid and PGS and finds them valuable, even if the score doesn’t really matter.

“It’s a place where people don’t get to see these clubs much,” he said. “The stadiums are always full. The results in these games don’t have much influence. Do what the coach asks. Show that we are physically well. Try to get to know your teammates.

“We also try to make it a nice show.”

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The tour comes with Juventus retooling following the first season since 2011 in which it failed to win a trophy. Among those who have departed is former captain Giorgio Chiellini, who signed last month with LAFC. Among those returning is U.S. national team midfielder Weston McKennie, the subject of numerous transfer rumors, who did not play in the first two exhibitions but could see action in the Rose Bowl match.

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For Real Madrid, meanwhile, the tour follows a season in which it won both La Liga and Champions League crowns, losing just nine times in 56 matches in all competition. And just three of the 23 players who suited up for the Champions League final didn’t return, among them winger Gareth Bale, who also signed with LAFC.

“Although we won the Champions League, we have a lot of possibilities to improve,” said Carlo Ancelloti, the only coach to win four Champions League titles. “To try to do better compared to last season, it’s not easy because last season was an exceptional season, an extraordinary season.

“But in our mind is to try to improve. The system now, we have more confidence. We have more knowledge in our system.”

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made a record nine saves in the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final, said the victory only fueled his drive to prepare to win again.

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“When you win a couple of trophies, it’s like adrenaline to keep on winning,” he said. “This feeling of winning trophies and important trophies is something you want to repeat.”

Playing in the U.S. is also something you want to repeat, said Courtois, whose last summer tour here came in 2019. Real Madrid had a 2020 U.S. tour scheduled, one that included a friendly with Barcelona that organizers hoped to play at SoFi Stadium, but it was canceled by COVID-19.

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“I love to go to the States,” said Courtois, who played 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Barcelona in Las Vegas last weekend, then sat out his team’s 2-2 draw with Club América in San Francisco on Tuesday. “To be able to go there again after some years because of COVID, it’s exciting.”

Ancelloti called it “a responsibility.”

“Real Madrid has supporters everywhere in the world,” he said. “We do our best to give happiness to our supporters in the United States.”

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