Seven strangest friendlies from Accrington v Marseille to Plymouth v Real Madrid

Pre-season is a time for players to find their sharpness and regain their fitness ahead of a new campaign – and it usually involves a series of low-profile friendly matches.

Even in a summer interrupted by coronavirus, Arsenal and Everton are hopping across the Atlantic to play in the Florida Cup, while Liverpool are in Germany for matches with Mainz and Hertha Berlin.

So far, so ordinary. But not all pre-season friendlies are quite as mundane as you might expect – some contain match-ups that are more Football Manager than real life.

Daily Star Sport have taken a look back at seven of the strangest pre-season friendlies, starting with a unique culture clash in east Lancashire.

Accrington Stanley 2-1 Marseille, 2019

Accrington Stanley, who are they? It didn't take long for Marseille to find out on their 2019 visit to the AJ Bell Stadium, home of Rugby Union side Sale Sharks.

The hosts raced into a 2-0 lead before half-time, Sean McConville opening the scoring before Offrande Zanzala doubled the lead from the spot on 37 minutes.

Marseille pulled one back through 2018 World Cup winner Florian Thauvin, but it wasn't enough as a side which also contained Dimitri Payet fell to a shock defeat.

Plymouth 0-1 Real Madrid, 2006

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Two great footballing minds met in this clash as Ian Holloway locked horns with Fabio Capello.

Capello had just taken charge of Real Madrid and decided he wanted to take his new team on a training camp to Austria.

Los Blancos had been there before and planned to return to the hotel where they had previously stayed – only there was a problem.

The hotel was already being used by Holloway's Plymouth. They agreed to make-way for Madrid, who later offered to play a friendly against them as a show of gratitude.

As if the sight of Capello in the opposite dugout to Holloway wasn't enough, Madrid only narrowly prevailed 1-0 thanks to a Julio Baptista penalty with 75 minutes on the clock.

Bournemouth 0-6 Real Madrid, 2013

Real Madrid just love a friendly against coastal English opposition. Torquay, you better watch out.

In Carlo Ancelotti's first game of his first spell in charge, he took an almost full-strength side – including Cristiano Ronaldo – to face second-tier Bournemouth.

Cherries fans queued overnight to buy tickets for the once-in-a-lifetime encounter, which drew a capacity crowd of 12,000.

Unfortunately, Eddie Howe's men were no match for their illustrious counterparts, losing 6-0 after a brace from Ronaldo and goals from Sami Khedira, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Casemiro.

Shrewsbury 0-3 Galatasaray, 2013

Galatasaray fans are famed for their 'Welcome to Hell' message when opposing teams visit their 52,223 capacity Ali Sami Yen stadium.

So we can only but wonder what Gala fans thought upon arrival at Shrewsbury's 10,361 capacity Montgomery Waters Meadow, set in the rolling Shropshire countryside.

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The unusual surroundings clearly didn't bother the likes of Emmanuel Eboue, Wesley Sneijder and former Chelsea star Didier Drogba as Galatasaray ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

Marlow 2-3 Kuwait, 2019

Ever wondered what would happen if a team in the Isthmian South Central Division faced a nation ranked 148th in the FIFA world rankings?

Marlow and Kuwait provided the answer in 2019 when they met for an unusual pre-season friendly on the Asian nation's mini-tour of England.

The hosts lost out 2-3 as Kuwait stepped up their preparations for the West Asian Championship. They also faced off against National League side Maidenhead, losing 1-0.

Walsall 2-0 Ajax, 2018

Ajax were one of the biggest success stories of the 2018-19 season.

Erik ten Haag's exciting young side won admirers across Europe after coming tantalising close to reaching the Champions League final, losing to Tottenham in a dramatic semi-final.

But their journey began at the quieter surrounds of the Bank's Stadium, where Andy Cook's brace gave League One Walsall a surprise 2-0 win over the 35-time Dutch champions.

Juventus 1-1 Notts County, 2011

The link between Juventus and Notts County dates all the way back to 1903 when the Old Lady played in a pink kit. Fancying a change, they sought out Englishman John Savage.

He contacted a friend in Nottingham, who sent over a bunch of black and white kits – thus creating the indelible link between the two clubs.

Fast forward to 2011, and to mark that historic partnership, Juventus invited Notts County to play in the first ever game at their brand new ground, now known as the Allianz Stadium.

County, fresh off the back of a League One win over Bournemouth, duly took up the invitation to test their mettle against the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro del Piero and Andrea Pirlo.

Not only did the Magpies hold their own during the star-studded opening, they even snatched a draw after Lee Hughes cancelled out Luca Toni's striker with three minutes remaining.

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