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Peace Cup Preview


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With an absence of competitive football this summer (thankfully!) but with Villa still needing to fine-tune their match sharpness against some quality opponents before the Premier League kick off on August 15th, what better than a high-profile invitation tournament against the likes of Réal Madrid, Juventus & Lyon?

Introducing The Peace Cup, with a winners purse of $2m no less. The Peace Cup was started in 2003 by the Sunmoon Peace Football Foundation with a view to 'showcasing the very best of football being connected to the larger purpose of peace & development'. Beautiful.

The competition, run every 2 years, is being staged outside South Korea for the first time and with a line-up of 12 teams, up from the usual 8. Andalucía & Madrid are the hosts for the 2009 tournament with Villa being based in the Andalucían town of Málaga.

The competition will run from Friday the 24th of July until the final on Sunday the 2nd of August.

It will consist of 4 groups with 3 teams in each group playing a round-robin.

The 4 group winners will each progress to the one-legged semi finals on Friday the 31st of July with the winners progressing to the final to be played in Sevilla's Olympic Stadium.

The 5 host cities are Sevilla, Huelva, Jerez, Málaga & Madrid.

Villa will be the 4th British team ever to participate in the Peace Cup. There were no British participants in the inaugural Peace Cup of 2003. Spurs took part and won the competition in 2005 and in 2007 Bolton & Reading took part with Bolton losing in the final to Lyon who have a remarkable record in the Cup. More on that later.

Villa's Group C was supposed to consist of Málaga & Glasgow Celtic, but due to Celtic's capitulation in their league run-in, their pre-season now requires extra qualification rounds for the Champions League which will be on at the same time as this competition, so their place is now taken by Mexican outfit Atlante. I wont even go into where they came in Mexico last season as it's too complicated to matter! Suffice it to say they came top, they came bottom and they lost in a semi. That's the Mexican league for you :) Málaga on the other hand had a very comfortable season in the very straight-forward Primera Liga hovering between 5th & 8th eventually finishing 8th and missing out on Europe. On one hand it is a pity that Villa don't get to pit their wits against a very well followed British rival in Celtic. It would have undoubtedly been the clash of the group and one of the spiciest matches of the tournament but on the other hand there are plenty who are more than happy Celtic wont be present at all. As it is, we play Málaga on the 25th & Atlante on the 29th with those 2 playing on the 27th.

Celtic weren't the only team to pull out of the tournament. Fenerbahçe of Turkey were originally pencilled in to the very strong Group D alongside Lyon & FC Porto but suffered the same fate and were replaced by compatriots Beşiktaş.

The 12 participating clubs are Sevilla, Réal Madrid, Málaga, Juventus, Lyon, FC Porto, Aston Villa, Beşiktaş, Seongnam of South Korea, Ecuadorian runners up Liga de Quito, Atlante of Mexico & Saudi Arabian champions Al-Ittihad.

If Villa manage to win their group then they will face the winner of the aforementioned Group D. And it's not a huge leap of faith to suggest that will be Lyon. In the 3 previous Peace Cups, Lyon have reached the final on all 3 occasions. Winning in '07 against Bolton and losing to Spurs in '05 & to PSV Eindhoven in '03.

As mentioned, Lyon go up against Beşiktaş & FC Porto in Group D.

Group A has Sevilla, Juventus & Seongnam.

Group B has Réal Madrid, Liga de Quito & Al-Ittihad. That should be fun..

So that's it folks. Some great teams, some great locations, some decent prize money, an excuse to bring the missus to sunny climes and catch the Villa in the process. Hopefully there'll be even more new faces on the pitch by the time we turn out against our hosts on Saturday.

Remember, you'll catch all the competition results in this thread on VillaTalk as and when they happen.

Up The Villa!

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