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Autzen goes from football to fùtbol

July 24, 2016 GMT

Autzen Stadium is expected to be half-empty for Sunday’s International Champions Cup match between Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.

Internationally, fans of the two soccer giants will be interested to see how the famous sides look on the freshly-installed grass surface inside Oregon’s football stadium.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. on ESPN.

Inter Milan is coming off a 2-1 victory in a friendly over Real Salt Lake on Tuesday in Sandy, Utah. Forward Stevan Jovetic scored the game-winner in extra time. Defender Danilo D’Ambrosio had the equalizer just before halftime after the MLS club took an early 1-0 lead.

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“I think it’s great when the big teams are traveling around the world,” Jovetic said of the ICC after a practice at the University of Portland on Monday. “I think it helps (the sport) a lot because everywhere we have fans, and it’s good for them to meet the players.”

The 18-time Serie A champions are without Ivan Perisic, Eder, Gary Medel, Marcelo Brozovic and Jeison Murillo for the ICC. Striker Mauro Icardi is on the trip and played against RSL.

PSG defeated West Bromich Albion of the English Premier League 2-1 on July 14 in Schladming, Austria, on the strength of late goals by Adrien Rabiot and Lucas Moura.

The four-time defending Ligue 1 champions flew from Paris to Los Angeles, conducted a lengthy training session Thursday and then traveled to Eugene on Saturday night.

“This is a very important tournament for us in terms of preparation for Ligue,” PSG coach Unai Emery said during a conference call with reporters. “The opponents we have are very challenging, great rivals. We understand these are going to be difficult matches, but it will get us prepared for the future.

“We’re here to win games, and if that happens we are satisfied with that result.”

Emery is entering his first season leading PSG after replacing legendary coach Laurent Blanc.

“It’s been a great path to my career here, mostly winning championships,” said Emery, who managed Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles. “This is definitely going to be a great challenge, but something I’m looking forward to. I want to grow a great team.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovich left PSG for Manchester United this offseason. Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier are among the top players with the club for the ICC.

Inter Milan will also play Bayern Munich on July 30 in Charlotte, N.C., before concluding its ICC schedule against Celtic FC on Aug. 13 in Limerick, Ireland. PSG will play Real Madrid on July 27 in Columbus, Ohio, and Leicester City in Carson, Calif., on July 30.

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“We always know that we are playing the top level teams that will bring us a challenge,” Emery said. “It will help us with our level of play. These are great games for our fans to enjoy the beauty of the sport.”

PSG, which won the North American bracket of the 2015 ICC, defeated Inter Milan 1-0 on a goal by Jean-Kevin Augustin last December in Doha, Qatar.

Tournament organizers and Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens were hoping for a sellout when the Inter Milan-PSG matchup was announced in the spring. Entering the week, only about 25,000 tickets had been sold.

The Ducks have sold out 110 consecutive football games at Autzen Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 54,000.

“For our program, for our community and for our state to be able to have an opportunity to host an ICC match is something spectacular,” Mullens said at the ICC news conference in March at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. “And to be able to welcome the best of international soccer to Autzen Stadium is something that’s extremely exciting.”