LOS ANGELES – Real Madrid are back to their customary preseason home: the campus of UCLA. This is where José Mourinho prefers to stay when gearing up for the impending season. It seems to work, too – last year Madrid won the Spanish title, the Copa del Rey and reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League.
The preparations this year will be largely the same because the goals are the same, says goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
“We're aspiring to take another step just like the last few seasons since Mourinho has been here,” he said through a translator in a press conference on Sunday. “At the beginning of this year we want to keep on consolidating the team and taking another step of responsibility. Again, we want to win the title in Spain, we want to win the Copa del Rey, and also the [Super] Cup that will be played in August in Spain and also in the Champions League [we want to] reach the finals.”
The first of those challenges is the two legs of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona on Aug. 23 and 29.
Casillas, who captained Spain to a second consecutive European title this summer, sees the friendly matches Real Madrid have scheduled in the United States as ideal buildup for the Barcelona tie.
First up is a match against the reigning MLS Cup winners, the LA Galaxy, on Thursday, Aug. 2, in The Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET/ 7:30 pm PT, ESPN2, espn3.com, 1330 AM, LIVE CHAT), followed by an Aug. 5 clash with Mexican champs Santos Laguna in Las Vegas (11 pm ET/ 8pm PT, FOX Soccer).
“It's good preparation for the Super Cup to start off with these games that will be somewhat difficult,” Casillas said. “It's a good matchup. Their league has already started, they're playing a lot of games, and for us it's not going to be easy.”
Overall the 31-year-old sees the time spent Stateside as crucial “to prepare [and] consolidate” for another grueling season vying with Barcelona. He talked about the drains on a squad competing for three different major trophies against a powerful Catalan outfit.
“For me, my team has consolidated in a way that is very positive during these last years," he said. "I think we've taking a giant step forward, a large step to compete against a Barcelona that had a very good season. We won a very difficult league. I believe this year we will do the same.”
Though Casillas is punching the clock during this tour, he hopes those in attendance sit back and soak up the “different type of entertainment” los Merengues offer.
“I want the people to enjoy themselves,” he said.