John Dykes previews International Champions Cup 2019 in Singapore

What's on SG

They say there's no such thing as a friendly in professional football and that is almost certain to be the case at the International Champions Cup in Singapore this summer, as four teams will all want to hit the ground running in pre-season ahead of campaigns in which they all have points to prove.

With a new format (four teams instead of three and two consecutive match-nights on the weekend of July 20 and 21), this year's ICC also boasts the strongest line-up of European club sides ever to grace the Sports Hub.

Aside from giving fans in Singapore a chance to see new signings - both on the pitch and in the dugouts - as well as the traditional glimpse of emerging young talent, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Juventus and Tottenham will all be aiming to show their supporters there are grounds for optimism for the upcoming season after a 2018/19 campaign when things didn't entirely go to plan.

English giants Manchester United are a classic case in point. The Red Devils make their long-awaited return to the Lion City after a historically poor campaign - their worst in 30 years. United finished 32 points behind champions Manchester City, failed to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League and were crushed by Barcelona in the quarter-finals of that competition.

However, manager and former goal-scoring hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is determined to show he's the man to bring back the glory days. United's financial resources always guarantee eye-catching new signings and there is undoubtedly young talent at the club, keen to claim a first-team shirt number.

The Saturday night Singapore showdown will be the first meeting of United and Inter in ten years and the Italians may well start as favourites as they have recent memories of Singapore, having won the ICC here two years ago.

However, the Nerazzurri also come to Singapore seeking to put right the wrongs of an underwhelming campaign. They exited the Champions League at the group stage and the Europa League in the Round of 16 but their biggest frustration came in Serie A where they failed to deliver on pre and early-season promise.

Having added the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Radja Nainggolan and Stefan De Vrij to their ranks, Inter were expected to run Juventus close at the top of the table. Instead, they scraped into another fourth place finish, faltering from the start of 2019 after an awkward falling-out with top striker Mauro Icardi. The season ended with coach Luciano Spaletti's departure and the appointment of Antonio Conte as his replacement.

Again, though, their fans at the Sports Hub have plenty to look forward to.

Former Chelsea man Conte also returns to Singapore, where he led the Blues in 2017 (losing 2-1 to Inter), and he will be hoping that this ICC outing leads to the same outcome once the league season gets under way: Chelsea went on to win the Premier League in 2017/18. Conte will seek to instantly stamp his mark on Inter, via judicious recruitment and his own Serie A-winning know-how.

That know-how was of course gained with Juventus, who return to the Sports Hub seeking to reinforce their status as the dominant force in Italian football. However, despite landing an eighth consecutive Serie A title last season, the Turin juggernaut won nothing else. Cristiano Ronaldo delivered 28 goals and ten assists and was undeniably the league's biggest drawcard.

Yet Ronaldo was primarily brought in to lead the Old Lady to (overdue) European glory and that did not happen: the Portuguese phenom duly scored important knockout-round goals only to see the Bianconeri exit at the quarter-finals stage.

Juventus have also appointed a former Chelsea head coach, Maurizio Sarri, as their new manager and will arrive in Singapore seeking to hit upon a formula that will deliver what they crave. But they will also come face to face with a reminder of last season's European failure: Champions League finalist Tottenham.

Juve knocked Spurs out of the Champions League two seasons back but the North London club has continued to grow and will want to show they belong at the very top of continental football. Like Juve, Spurs will bring a squad featuring established stars and new faces to Singapore and they will also seek to defend their crown as reigning ICC champions.

So, two highly-competitive Anglo-Italian clashes await us at ICC 2019, featuring European heavyweights with points to prove. Add to that the buzz that this quartet of clubs will bring to Singapore as they train, engage with the community, roll out new kits and work with sponsors, perhaps even taking in the sights around town as previous clubs have done.

July 20 and 21 is shaping up as a "must-not-miss" weekend for football fans in Singapore. See you there!