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Real expected to give MLS stars intense match

USA goalkeeper Tim Howard cheers his team’s victory after their CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Costa Rica, in Dallas, Texas, on July 22, 2017 © AFP/File / Brendan Smialowski

CHICAGO, United States, Aug 1 – Veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard says top North American club players should expect “cut-throat” competition from Spanish giants Real Madrid in Wednesday’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game.

The All-Star match at Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, marks the end of a four-match, 11-day pre-season US tour for Real Madrid that included a 3-2 loss to rival Barcelona in a Clasico matchup at Miami.

But Howard expects Real Madrid to bring their best as they prepare for the upcoming La Liga campaign.

“When you get to play for a team like Real Madrid, there’s no days off,” Howard said. “There are no easy games. They have a world-class coach that they are trying to impress.

“They have got to play well to earn a spot coming up for the La Liga season. World football is intense and it’s cut-throat. There aren’t any days when guys just take it easy. When you put your jersey on and cross the line — whether it’s a tournament, a regular-season game, a pre-season game, an All-Star Game — these guys are going to be up for it.”

Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Howard will start in goal for Chicago Fire coach Veljiko Paunovic in the mid-season exhibition.

Real Madrid players take part in a training session at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida, on July 28, 2017 © AFP/File / HECTOR RETAMAL

In 2001, Howard represented the East in a conference versus conference All-Star Game and in the following year he was part of an MLS All-Star squad that took on US national team.

He played against the MLS All-Stars when he returned with English Premiership side Everton in 2009 in the current format that pits the All-Stars against top-flight European competition.

“I’m not sure which one’s better,” he said of the various permutations of the All-Star Game he has experienced. “But it will be certainly exciting to play Real Madrid — there’s no question about that.”

The All-Stars feature plenty of heavyweights with marquee match experience, including World Cup winners Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Villa and Kaka.

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“It’s an honor to play for the MLS All-Star team, especially here in Chicago,” said the Fire’s German import Schweinsteiger, who launched his MLS career this season and will captain the All-Stars by popular vote.

“We will look to have a good game, to be competitive against Real Madrid and if we can win, we will go for the match,” Schweinsteiger told the Chicago Tribune.

“We know that it is a very strong team and that we are playing together for the first time. It is not going to be easy at all, but we will try and have a good game and enjoy it a little.”

Orlando City’s Brazilian star Kaka, who helped Real Madrid to the 2011-12 La Liga title, said facing his former team will be “a very emotional experience.”

“I do not know how the game will go, but we have a great team to play a very even game with Real Madrid,” he said.

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