Leave it to the City of Lights to unite an Arsenal legend with his old supporters against a common foe.
Before the Gooners can welcome back Gunners great Thierry Henry in the weekend finale, the New York Red Bulls will kick off against Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain at Emirates Stadium in London, England on Saturday. This trans-Atlantic clash represents the first leg of the Emirates Cup, a two-day exhibition tournament hosted by English Premier League side Arsenal FC.
The four clubs involved in this year's Emirates Cup -- Arsenal, Paris SG, Boca Juniors, and the Red Bulls -- play two matches with the standard tournament scoring of three points awarded for a win, one point for a draw, and the added incentive of a point for every goal scored. Arsenal has won the Emirates Cup three times in the four years of the tournament's existence, including last year's edition.
Key Matchup: The Red Bulls vs. Their Depth Chart. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe has worked hard to mixed results in balancing a very busy July schedule that includes MLS regular season, US Open Cup, and MLS All-Star Game commitments for many of his key players.
Make no mistake -- the Emirates Cup sat on the Red Bulls' calendar with a big circle around these next two days. These games may not factor in to the MLS standings, but they stand to help benefit the club's reputation on the global soccer scene and within MLS. They will not punt these matches in the same way they seemingly punted the US Open Cup quarterfinal at Chicago.
Backe has 21 players at his disposal to play two matches in two days before the Red Bulls can finally have their full first week of rest since the middle of June. With Luke Rodgers and Mehdi Ballouchy missing the trip due to injury and visa issues respectively, Backe has one more balancing act to peform with his reserves and regular personnel to make a strong impression under the bright lights of the second largest club stadium in London.
Time Zone Tizzy. New York generally hasn't fared well in their matches away from Eastern Standard/Daylight Time, going 0-2-8 in MLS play this season as well as the US Open Cup loss at Chicago.
Factor in the five-hour time difference to Greenwich Mean Time and that the club did not leave New York until Thursday nor send any non-All-Stars in advance to adjust to the time difference and it could make for a sluggish start by whatever combination of players that Backe decides to start against Les Parisiens.
A Moveable Feast. Paris Saint-Germain is a club on an upward trajectory, with their fourth-place finish in the 2010-11 season being their best finish in a decade and a mere three seasons after narrowly avoiding relegation. New Paris SG sporting director Leonardo took the reins in July after being courted away from his post as Inter head coach.
Leonardo promptly brought Roma winger Jérémy Ménez and former Juventus defensive midfielder Mohamed Sissoko to bolster his defensive efforts as well as French 'keeper Nicolas Douchez and former Palermo shot stopper Salvatore Sirigu to handle the netminding duties. A lot of Paris SG manager Antoine Kombouaré's weekend tactics may revolve around Leonardo's efforts to help these players establish chemistry for the upcoming season and the accompanying run in the UEFA Europa League.