The Reds are loaded with nine pre-season fixtures to prepare for the upcoming Premier League campaign which will also be Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in-charge of Liverpool. TheHardTackle previews three of the Reds most eye-catching match-ups this summer.
Quite a few teams would consider nine matches in the space of a month and a half prior to the start of the Premier League season a needless burden as it could drain the players even before a ball is kicked in the new campaign. However Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp seems to think otherwise. Going into his first pre-season for the Reds, the boss made it clear that his players would be subject to an intense summer of training to suitably condition themselves to his style of football. The German also insisted, his training exercises demand consistency from his players and expects the practice sessions to bear fruit for the Reds on the football pitch prior to the commencement of yet another grueling league campaign.
Easy wins, Better confidence
Liverpool have a well balanced pre-season calendar starting with four encounters against lower league teams followed by some mouth-watering clashes against FC Barcelona, Chelsea and AC Milan in the International Champions’ Cup. FSV Mainz and AS Roma are also on the list of friendlies Klopp’s side will participate in this summer.
Whilst their participation in the International Champions’ Cup was decided much earlier, it was upon Klopp’s insistence that the Reds hastily arranged four low-profile match-ups against Tranmere Rovers, Fleetwood Town, Huddersfield Town and Wigan Athletic towards the end of the 2015-16 campaign. The German boss’ ideology behind his suggestion was playing against smaller teams leaves him some room to test out tactics, style of play and understand his player’s best positions, which may not entirely be possible while playing against a superior side of Barcelona’s pedigree.
Klopp believes that the ultimate success of his system depends on the players’ confidence and self-belief and some ‘easy wins’ in pre-season could go a long way into injecting his ‘philosophy’ into his players. That said, encounters like the ones against Milan, Barcelona, Roma and Chelsea will be a treasure trough worth of experience to take back for a Liverpool side who will have no European tournaments to participate in the 2016-17 season.
TheHardTackle would now like to preview three of the best pre-season games to look forward to for Klopp’s men this summer.
Date : 6th August 2016
Venue : Wembley Stadium, London
Competition: International Champions’ Cup (Friendly)
Arguably the best game in store for the Reds this summer and probably another year till they make their way back into Europe. Owing to Liverpool’s lack of European football over the past 7 years, these two continental heavy-weights haven’t had the chance to rub shoulders against each other off late. The last time these two sides met, Liverpool came away with a famous 2-1 win at the Camp Nou and in doing so became the only English side to have beaten the Catalans in their fabled fortress.
In eight matches between the two, Liverpool and Barcelona both have three wins while having shared the spoils twice. The friendly at Wembley is the first non-competitive match between the two sides and will see the likes of Luis Suarez and Javier Mascherano return against their former side for the first time since leaving the club in 2010 and 2014 respectively.
Both sides will be expected to have their full squad available for the crunch game as it would provide some valuable match practice ahead of the season opener. The mouth-watering prospect of lining-up opposite one among the best sides in the world could be an exciting one for the Reds and regardless of what the final result is, Klopp’s men will take crucial lessons from the game to aid them going into what could be a tough start to their Premier League campaign.
While the Reds have completed four summer acquisitions in the form of Sadio Mane, Marko Grujic, Loris Karius and Joel Matip, the Blaugrana have gone ahead and done some good business of their own in the market roping in Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne and Denis Suarez. There could be further signings made by the time the two sides take the field on August 6th, hence there is much to look forward to for both teams ahead of the International Champions’ Cup clash. The match incidentally falls less than 24 hours before Liverpool’s friendly against Klopp’s former side, Mainz, which could mean the German may not field his full strength line-up in either of the games. He could field sides mixed with first-team stars and academy prospects in both the games.
The Reds face Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur within their first five game-weeks in a period that could quite easily define their league season.
Blast From The Past
Date : 27th July 2016
Venue : Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, California
Competition : International Champions’ Cup
In the clash of two English super-powers, Liverpool and Chelsea also meet in the league phase of the International Champions’ Cup as both sides attempt to erase memories of a forgetful 2015-16 campaign and prepare towards a new era under new bosses. While Klopp has been at work at Anfield for over 9 months, Antonio Conte arrives at Chelsea after relinquishing his managerial duties with the Italian national team.
Klopp and Conte are both tactical minds with an immensely passionate approach towards the sport and both attribute the success of their system to hard-work and discipline. The encounters and incidents involving the two sides over recent years has perpetrated a fierce rivalry between the Londoners and the Merseysiders.
Conte is expected to oversee a summer clear-out at Chelsea and bring in players that’d suit his system that worked wonders at Juventus. Klopp on the other hand is prepared to carry out an identical operation at Anfield in his bid to put forward the best possible squad to potentially challenge for league honours next season.
In the 109-year history of this fixture, Chelsea and Liverpool have locked horns a staggering 175 times with the Reds coming away with 3 points on 76 occasions while the Blues did so on 61 occasions. Their most recent encounter was at Anfield when a late Christian Benteke goal cancelled out Eden Hazard’s opener and ensured the spoils were shared at the end of 90 minutes.
Chelsea embarked on their 2015-16 Premier League season as defending champions and 9 torrid months later, the Blues finished their shocking season in 10th place making their title defence the worst in the history of the modern English top flight. While Liverpool made it to two cup finals only to tearfully fall short on both occasions. Their delightful cup run didn’t quite match their league performances which suffered a severe lack of consistency with the Reds eventually settling for 8th spot.
Both sides will be without a few players who took part in the Euros as they may be on holiday and will enter the fray much later. Liverpool could be without Welsh hero Joe Allen and Germany’s Emre Can while Chelsea could be without their Belgian contingent featuring Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard and new signing Michy Batshuayi. Both the sides will want to stamp their authority on this fixture before they enter the grind of yet another grueling Premier League season from the 14th of August.
Blast From The Past
Date : 30th July 2016
Venue : Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Competition : International Champions’ Cup (Friendly)
Liverpool vs A.C Milan. The fixture in itself evokes poignant memories of one of the most remarkable nights in the history of European football . The UEFA Champions’ League final of 2005, nicknamed the ‘Miracle of Istanbul‘, witnessed one of the greatest comeback stories of all-time as Liverpool fought their way out of obscurity from a 3-0 deficit at half-time to leveling things up in the space of six dramatic 2nd half minutes, before Jerzy Dudek’s heroics in goal won it for the Reds in the penalty shoot-out.
While Milan did extract revenge two years later at the 2007 final at Athens, it did little to help them forget the shocking nature in which they gave away a trophy in 2005 that looked well and truly theirs. Things however have changed a lot since then with the fortunes of both sides heading downhill. From contesting in a combined 5 Champions League finals between them in the first decade of the new millennium, the two erstwhile Champions’ League heavyweights have slipped heavily down the pecking order of European football.
The Champions’ League has been graced by Liverpool’s presence only twice in the last 6 years while it has missed the the Italian giants for three years now with the Rossoneri last featuring in the 2013-14 campaign. While Jurgen Klopp has ushered in a new era at Liverpool since his arrival last October, recently appointed Vicenzo Montella will look to replicate the same at a Milan side trying desperately to stay among the crème of the crop in the Italian Serie A.
The two fallen giants of world football will look to set the sparks for a new season when they meet each other on 30th July for the first time since Filippo Inzaghi’s brace condemned Liverpool to a 2-1 defeat at Athens in 2007.
Blast From The Past