IVANOVIC: NINETY-MINUTE MAN
Defeat to the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night was an indicator that work is needed before the team is in the right shape to kick-off the new league season, but Branislav Ivanovic reassures anyone concerned that the opportunity to improve is there.
The Serbian international became the first member of the squad to complete 90 minutes of a game in this pre-season, playing at right back and centre-back during the course of the game, but was unable with his team-mates to prevent a stoppage-time strike that deflected in off David Luiz to decide the game.
Legs may have been a little weary by that stage against the mid-season MLS team but Ivanovic welcomed being pushed towards the limit.
'It was a good challenge to play 90 minutes to see what is our level at this moment,' he said shortly after the game.
'This is very important for this period of the pre-season, to know how your fitness is.
'I was the first player to play a whole game because I started the pre-season from the beginning and the other guys train for a less period than me now. It was a good opportunity to play 90 minutes and the game was quite high intensity which we are looking for at this moment.
There were certainly contrasts in the type of contest offered compared with the previous game against Paris St-Germain. The French team were in their early pre-season but the MLS players have been in action since March; PSG were able play some of Europe's rising stars whereas the All-Stars' most famous names are in the twilight of their careers and they are a team that only play together once. Plus more fans in Philadelphia were cheering for our opponents than in New York.
'The atmosphere was everything that we needed but what is disappointing is the result,' said Ivanovic, 'but I think it is maybe better losing in this moment but seeing how things are building and which level we are at.
'We have to do the basics right and start building on that more and more, and I think everything will be okay because we have two and a half weeks more to be ready, which is a long period to prepare ourselves for the start of a long and difficult season.'