Date: 8th May 2009 at 4:37pm
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I was in a less familiar and slightly more international crowd at the Emirates Cup last year. After chatting with a Juve-supporting Italian couple from London behind me in the queue outside the shop entrance, I picked up the stuff I wanted to get and lined up again at the cashier counters after a few German youngsters who had flown in to London to support Hamburg. Sitting next to four pretty animated Spaniards, in their white replica shirts and also ‘Real Madrid: Campeones 31’ T-shirts, in the East Stand then completed my experience in the quite special crowd that the Emirates Cup drew to the Grove for the second time in a row.

This summer, you might see a similarly diverse crowd there as the third Emirates Cup is going to be held from 1st to 2nd August. Again, Arsenal have invited three leading teams from three nations to make it a good spectacle in the otherwise painfully boring summer. Although we’re not talking about competitive action, for three years in a row, the combinations of names have looked capable of at least matching the appeal of a typical group in the Champions League group stage. Our experiences also tell us that these teams came to us to test themselves against other quality sides and did manage to serve up some good entertainment to the crowd and TV audiences for a pre-season tournament.

Come August, Glasgow Rangers will be the first Scottish team to grace the Emirates Stadium. Atlético Madrid will be the third Spanish side to participate in this pre-season tournament, after Valencia and Real Madrid. Paris Saint-Germain won’t be new to us, their last visit coming from the inaugural edition of the same tournament in 2007. But I guess their participation comes as no surprise since they’re sponsored by the same airline that supports this tournament and our stadium with cash (hence Hamburg last year presumably).

The club’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis said he was ‘delighted’ because ‘Atletico Madrid, Rangers and Paris Saint-Germain all have great pedigree and will contribute to an exciting weekend of pre-season football.

‘Following the huge success of the Emirates Cup tournaments in 2007 and 2008, we are delighted to once again be offering supporters the opportunity to watch two high quality matches each day over a weekend, for as little as £25 a ticket per day.

‘The tournament will of course, also provide a very competitive level of preparation for all the teams ahead of the 2009/2010 season.`

The fixtures are as follows:

Saturday 1st August 2009
Rangers v Paris Saint-Germain (2pm Kick-off)
Arsenal v Atletico Madrid (4.15pm Kick-off)

Sunday 2nd August 2009
Atletico Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain (2pm kick-off)
Arsenal v Rangers (4.15pm kick-off)