Real Madrid sets up shop before final stop

ST. LOUIS — One more victory and Real Madrid wraps up a perfect preseason.

The club has reached its last stop, training for two days at Saint Louis University in preparation for today’s exhibition against Inter Milan in the Edward Jones Dome. The school’s men’s and women’s teams were among the few hundred fans watching Friday.

It’s been a very successful American tour for Real Madrid, which took the Guinness International Champions Cup earlier this week in Miami, fueled by a pair of highlight goals from Ronaldo in the finale against Chelsea.

Pepe, the lone player made available to reporters Friday, said through an interpreter it’s been a smooth transition to new coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“We’ve worked very hard in the preseason trying to adapt to the philosophy,” Pepe said. “The coach is very close to the players, he’s aware what’s going on with all of them.”

Ancelotti wants more scoring from a talented roster and got it in the International Champions Cup with eight goals in three games.

“The tradition, the history of this club, of Real Madrid, is to play offensive football and we have tried to play offensively,” Ancelotti said. “It’s true the last game against Chelsea was good, in the first half. Now it’s just a preseason match and we have to improve.

“I think we have the possibility to improve because the team has a lot of quality, technical skills, ability. So we have all the right (pieces).”

Pepe brushed aside the rumored acquisition of Tottenham forward Christian Bale, his adjustment to sharing playing time and his contract status. He noted he’d been hampered last season by an ankle injury that required surgery, and that he had a three-year contract with Real Madrid.

He was twice asked about Bale, responding: “We’re here to talk about players actually on the team.”

Pepe said he’d seen little of St. Louis aside from the practice field and the suburban hotel where the team was staying. But he noted the club has received “lots of warmth from everyone” on the tour.

“The people have been incredibly nice, well-education, and they’ve treated us really well,” Pepe said.

Inter Milan also is adapting to a new coach, with Walter Mazzarri replacing Andrea Stramaccioni after the club, dogged by injuries, failed to make the European tournament for the first time in 15 years.

A crowd of about 55,000, the most ever to watch a soccer game in St. Louis, is anticipated. That’s about 12,000 shy of capacity, although it’ll top a standing-room crowd of 48,263 at Busch Stadium in May for Manchester City’s victory over Chelsea.

Organizers rolled up and removed the St. Louis Rams’ artificial turf surface earlier this week, installing 400 truckloads of sod on a temporary grass surface.

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