Sports / Soccer

Shanghai SIPG to host Atletico Madrid in pre-season friendly

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-07-15 10:14

SHANGHAI - Sven-Goran Eriksson and Diego Simeone will match their wits when Shanghai SIPG host Atletico Madrid in the Wanda International Football Tournament friendly match on August 4 as part of the Spanish club's pre-season tour of Asia.

Atletico's match against SIPG at the Shanghai Stadium will kick off at 7:00pm and conclude a two-stop tour that starts with a match against J League side Sagan Tosu in Japan on August 1.

Simeone, who won 106 caps for Argentina and played in three World Cups, has become one of the world's most respected managers after overseeing a huge upturn in Atletico's fortunes since taking over in December 2011.

"We are very excited about playing against Shanghai SIPG, especially as they are managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson, one of my former coaches," said Simeone, who was a key part of Eriksson's Lazio side who won the Italian league and cup double in 2000.

"SIPG have quickly become one of China's biggest clubs and I believe this match in Shanghai will be a good test for our players as we prepare for the new season in Spain."

Under Simeone, Atletico won the UEFA Europa League in 2012, the Copa del Rey in 2013 and La Liga in 2014, when they also reached the UEFA Champions League final. This year, the team finished third in La Liga behind Barcelona and Real Madrid, and were knocked out by the latter in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Simeone, 45, says the Rojiblancos ('red and whites') are now looking to follow in the footsteps of Spain's two biggest clubs by expanding their international profile. In late May, the club made headlines by winning the youth-focused HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong with a young side featuring mainly Atletico B players.

"Atletico Madrid is a great club with a proud tradition and we want to grow our popularity around the world," Simeone said. "We know the fans in Asia love football and we hope they will appreciate Atletico's style and never-say-die spirit."

Atletico will face an in-form SIPG, who are currently second in the Chinese Super League in their first season under Eriksson and only their third year in the top flight, having finished ninth in 2013 and fifth in 2014.

Michael Sun, SIPG's Executive Deputy General Manager, believes the match's timing and location could play into the hands of the hosts as they look to cause an upset against one of the world's top teams.

"We look forward to learning something from the match against Atletico Madrid, but it doesn't mean we have no wish to win. Any football team has the same goal when they play - victory," Sun said.

"The match is in the middle of the CSL season, so Shanghai SIPG FC are going to show our best form. We also have the advantage that the match will be played on our home pitch, Shanghai Stadium, so thousands of supporters will cheer for us and we won't let our fans be disappointed."

The Wanda Group, which owns 20 percent of Atletico Madrid, is helping organize the Spanish club's visit to China.

Wang Jianlin, Chairman of the Wanda Group, said: "Wanda has a long history of investing in football in China and we're now spreading our investment and interests overseas in a bid to grow relationships.

"Atletico Madrid's visit to China for this special match against Shanghai SIPG is an example of the kind of connections we can make to bring our football cultures closer together for the benefit of both countries. This will be a memorable occasion for Chinese and Spanish football."

Ticket details for the match will be announced at a later date.

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