Bayern Munich
Real Madrid
Leg 1
Game Details
Toronto FC
1:30 AM UTC Apr 26, 2018
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details

African players with a point to prove at the International Champions Cup

The International Champions Cup is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of new signings at some of Europe's major clubs, to get an early impression of a team's tactical approach for the coming campaign, and a maiden chance to see how a side's new kits look in action.

It's also a potentially valuable opening for players to reaffirm their quality or to prove a point to their manager or to fans.

This season, various African stars are set to head to the United States, Singapore and China for the ICC, and for several of them, it's an opportunity they must grab with both hands.

Alex Iwobi: Despite a promising start to his Arsenal career after bursting onto the scene during the 2015-16 campaign, Iwobi's progress stalled towards the end of last term.

While Arsene Wenger's shift to a 3-4-2-1 formational helped the Gunners improve their fortunes in the league, it came at a cost for the Nigerian midfielder, who was sacrificed as Arsenal opted to include another defender in their starting XI.

Iwobi's long-term future doesn't look too uncertain - he's only 21 after all - but he will realise the value of the ICC as an opportunity to prove to Wenger that he's ready to be restored to the Arsenal lineup.

The Nigeria international has also revealed that he's targeting more goals this season, a strike or two against Bayern Munich in Shanghai on July 19 wouldn't go amiss!

Timothy Fosu-Mensah: After making steady progress at Manchester United under Louis van Gaal, Fosu-Mensah's career began to stagnate under Jose Mourinho last season, as he played just four times in the Premier League, making just one start.

Perhaps he was just another victim of the Portuguese coach's famed reticence to place his faith in youngsters, or perhaps he wasn't yet ready for life in the Premier League - despite the evidence of the 2015-16 campaign.

The Dutch-Ghanaian defender has reportedly been working hard on his own during pre-season as he looks to impress Mourinho, and a recent showing in the friendly victory over Los Angeles Galaxy - he came off the bench to contribute an assist for Anthony Martial - bodes well for the coming campaign.

Medhi Benatia: Leonardo Bonucci's exit from Juventus this summer was one of the most unexpected moves of the window...and potentially one of the most damaging for the selling club.

The centre-back has established himself as one of the world's finest defenders in recent seasons, and he knows Massimiliano Allegri's defensive system at Juve inside out.

The reigning Serie A champions may feel that, in Benatia, they have an able replacement for the Italy international, although the former Bayern Munich man still has much to do to convince that he can help the Old Lady get over the loss off Bonucci.

Despite an underwhelming injury-hit campaign last term in which he managed just 15 top flight outings, Benatia was signed permanently from Bayern for a hefty €17 million earlier this window.

He's already been linked with an immediate move away from the club - AS Monaco are reportedly keen on his services - while Juve's mooted interest in Ezequiel Garay, Kostas Manolas and Stefan De Vrij indicates that the Turin heavyweights are keen to strengthen further at the back.

Nicolas N'Koulou's first campaign at Lyon didn't go as he'd hoped, as the centre-back managed only 12 outings in Ligue 1 - and none between late October and early April.

Towards the season's end, however - perhaps boosted by his goalscoring display in the African Cup of Nations final - he began to reaffirm the class he'd earlier shown at Marseille and AS Monaco.

As Lyon are linked with a move for Manchester City's Eliaquim Mangala, N'Koulou's future has been plunged into uncertainty. Is the ICC an opportunity for him to win over Jean-Michel Aulas...or convince potential suitors of his worth?

Mohamed Elneny is coming off the back of a mixed maiden season in English football. Arsenal's weak underbelly continued to be exposed time and time again as the Gunners finally dropped out of the top four, and the Egypt international - who made just eight Premier League starts - did little to suggest that he could be the solution.

So far this preseason, however, Elneny has been one of Arsenal's star men, winning plaudits for his mature and effective displays as a centre-back.

This is an area of weakness for the Gunners, and perhaps the rangy Egypt international - who scored a long-ranged effort against Western Sydney Wanderers - may yet be a long-term solution as an advanced libero in the heart of a three-man defence.

The ICC offers him an opportunity to prove that he can play in this role against tougher opponents, and even if he can't pin down a starting spot, he can at least reaffirm to Arsene Wenger what a valuable - and versatile - squad member he can be.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.


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