Melbourne Victory players returned to training this week for the start of a pre-season campaign with an unusual twist.
Victory will face Juventus at the MCG on Saturday, July 23 in the International Champions Cup, followed by a tour match against Atletico Madrid in Geelong on Sunday, July 31.
For Victory defender Nick Ansell, playing professional games this early in the pre-season is a bonus.
"The pre-season is so long here in Australia," he said. "To be playing a game in three weeks just gives you that little bit extra to look forward to and something to strive for.
"(Juventus and Atletico Madrid are) two of the biggest teams in the world. It's a privilege to play against them. Hopefully we get a big crowd to both of those games."
Ansell and his teammates were put through an intense 60-minute session on their first day back at the club on Monday, after having five weeks off.
The break came at a welcome time for the playing group, which endured a gruelling schedule of matches last season.
"The session was pretty hard, it was pretty intense. It's great to be back and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the pre-season," Ansell said.
"Last year we played something like 44 professional games. It's definitely tough on the body throughout the year.
"That five weeks we get off really helps the body get a good rest and helps repair everything for the next pre-season."
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