- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

SEVILLE, Spain | Two of Europe’s oldest clubs - both with storied histories - will compete in the Peace Cup final Sunday at Olympic Stadium.

Famed Italian team Juventus downed Real Madrid on Friday in the semifinals; English Premier League club Aston Villa swept aside FC Porto to reach the final of the 12-team event and a chance at the $2 million prize.

Birmingham-based Villa is seeking to become the second English team to win the Peace Cup, which is sponsored by the Sunmoon Peace Football Foundation, a corporate sister of The Washington Times. In 2005, London’s Tottenham Hotspur won in South Korea.

Juventus, runner-up in Serie A last season, is seeking to become the first Italian team to take the trophy. After three straight wins in Spain, Juventus appears to be the favorite. Juventus, nicknamed the “Old Lady,” is led by 34-year-old World Cup star Alessandro Del Piero and former world player of the year Fabio Cannavaro.

“We have shown we can play at the highest level against any team,” said Del Piero, who assisted on both goals in the 2-1 win against Real Madrid.

Juventus, based in Turin and founded in 1897, is Italy’s most successful team, boasting 27 league titles. It has also won two European Cups, the last in 1996.

“Now [that] we have reached the final, we have to study our tactics and logistics,” Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara said. “The Villa players are tough defenders, so we have to study what to do.”

Founded in 1874, Villa is one of the oldest clubs in the world. The club has won seven EPL titles - the last in 1981 - and claimed the European Cup in 1982. American goalie Brad Guzan has been sensational in the Villa nets in his two starts.

“When we started in this competition, we understood it was a preseason tournament. But we also knew - with any competition - there would be a final,” Guzan said on the club’s Web site. “To have the chance to now play in that is a big deal. We’re now in there, and we need to take our form into Sunday.”

American right-back Eric Lichaj is also looking to make his fourth start in the tournament for Villa.

Woes for Madrid - Real Madrid’s performance at the Peace Cup received mixed reviews. Top-heavy with talent and free-flowing attacking prowess, the club showed weakness on its back line, where it gave up five goals on set pieces.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini brushed aside a question about his team’s upcoming game against D.C. United on Aug. 9 at FedEx Field. He said he will continue to experiment with his lineup and will know his starting 11 when the La Liga play kicks off Aug. 30.

By the time the transfer window closes Aug. 31, Real Madrid may have spent more than $400 million on new players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. Some coaches have voiced concern that Real Madrid is trying to buy success.

Leonardo, the coach for Italian club AC Milan, told the British media this week: “You need more than just money to build a team.” Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said he wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the Real Madrid coach “picking his team with all those individuals” used to getting playing time.

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