Pre-Season 2013/2014

Liverpool are scheduled to play seven pre-season matches in order to prepare themselves for what is going to be a crucial 2013/2014 Premier League season, one in which a top four finish appears an imperative if the project Brendan Rodgers has begun is to gain traction. Return to this page to receive short reviews of the following friendly fixtures:

13/7/13- Preston North End (A) (15:00)
20/7/13- Indonesia XI (A) (14:30)
24/7/13- Melbourne Victory (A) (11:00)
28/7/13- Thailand (A) (11:45)
3/8/13- Olympiacos (H) (12:45)
7/8/13- Valerenga (A) (18:00)
10/8/13- Celtic (A) (17:00)

13/7/13- Preston North End 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool eased their way into their pre-season programme with a comfortable 4-0 victory at Preston's Deepdale stadium. The friendly, played to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Bill Shankly, a footballing giant who made his name in the Anfield dugout after spending most of his playing career at Preston, saw goals from Coutinho, Ibe, Sterling and the impressive Aspas clinch the 'Shankly Shield' for the visiting side.

Coutinho got the ball rolling by converting a penalty on the quarter of an hour mark after being felled by former Liverpool midfielder John Welsh. Youngster Jordan Ibe, who made his first team debut versus QPR on the final day of last season, furthered his case for more first team action with a good goal on 36 minutes, cutting in from the left to fire low into the bottom corner.

Ibe celebrates scoring Liverpool's second
At the other end, captain for the day Daniel Agger and debutant Kolo Toure looked assured and solid, while Simon Mignolet, the only survivor of wholesale changes at the interval, remained untested.

Second half substitute Iago Aspas claimed many spectators' man of the match award with an eye-catching performance that bodes well for the future. He was run close, however, by Raheem Sterling, whose fluidity and creativity on the wing was a welcome sight. The England youth international also displayed composure to round keeper Rudd and tap into an empty net on the hour mark after Aspas' pass had set him in on goal.

The former Celta Vigo man grabbed a goal himself with 15 minutes left to play, firing the ball menacingly goalwards from the edge of the area and benefiting from some dubious goalkeeping to complete an accomplished display and round off a classy performance from Brendan Rodgers' troops.

After only one pre-season friendly one must obviously guard against unrealistic optimism, but, with youngsters showing their credentials and new arrivals impressing, the signs were only positive from this convincing victory over Preston.

20/7/13- Indonesia XI 0-2 Liverpool

On their first game in Indonesia, Liverpool rewarded the fantastic support of 60,000 passionate Indonesian Reds with a two-goal victory over their hosts. In a fever pitch atmosphere that replicated Anfield, Coutinho and Sterling scored the goals that sealed a comfortable pre-season victory for the visitors from Merseyside.

The Indonesian Kop was in good voice
Despite selecting a strong starting line-up and opening the scoring after only ten minutes, Brendan Rodgers' side seemed flat during an uninspiring first half played on a difficult surface. It was the second pre-season friendly and the second time that Brazilian attacker Philippe Coutinho broke the deadlock early on, benefiting from a deflection off an opponent to stride through on goal and slide the ball under the goalkeeper with consummate ease.

New signings Aspas and Alberto then combined for the latter to smash a strike against the crossbar, before Mignolet tipped Sergio Van Dijk's testing 30-yard effort behind. Overall, though, there was little to get excited about, although youngsters Ibe and Sterling showed some promise during a slightly more entertaining second period.

Their pace certainly helped them penetrate the Indonesian's back line more effectively, and Sterling grabbed the goal his performance deserved two minutes before the final whistle. Ibe surged down the left wing before finding Assaidi, who unselfishly set up Sterling for an easy tap in that he converted with no difficulty. 

Supporters satisfied and players exercised, Liverpool's pre-season tour now rolls on to Australia, where Luis Suarez will join the squad to discuss his future with manager Brendan Rodgers and maybe, just maybe, feature against Melbourne Victory in front of another full house.

24/7/13- Melbourne Victory 0-2 Liverpool

Amid the furore over the future of Luis Suarez following an audacious bid of £40 million plus £1 from Arsenal, Liverpool had a pre-season friendly on Wednesday in which the Uruguyuan featured. Coming on for the final 20 minutes, the number seven showed his talent by setting up new signing Iago Aspas for the Reds' second goal after skipper Steven Gerrard had given the tourists a first half lead.

Melbourne provided spirited opposition, but Liverpool were always the better side and deserved to maintain their 100% record in pre-season fixtures. Wisdom was particularly impressive at centre back alongside Martin Skrtel, putting in a solid display and showing signs that the youngster may be a viable candidate for the position of fourth choice centre back ahead of Coates.

Sterling and Ibe displayed more signs of promise, while Allen put in a performance that suggests he might have a much better second season at Anfield. On the half hour mark he provided the assist for Steven Gerrard's opener. The number eight embarked on a run from his deep lying position, latching onto the former Swansea star's pass before calmly converting into the corner of the net.

In the second half, Rodgers made a host of changes just after 70 minutes had been played. The substitute most watched was inevitably Luis Suarez, whose body language was far from promising for Kopites who want to see him stay at the club this summer. Despite being evidently in a sulk, Suarez still showed his superiority, setting up Aspas' last gasp tap-in with some fancy footwork on his way into the danger area from the right wing.

Suarez sets up Aspas for the Reds' second
Another work out, another win and another clean sheet. There are plenty of positives to take from this victory over Victory. However, the ominous prospect of it being one of Suarez's last matches in the red shirt of Liverpool is troubling.

28/7/13- Thailand 0-3 Liverpool

The usual suspects impressed as Liverpool ended their Far Eastern pre-season tour with a comprehensive three-goal victory over Thailand in Bangkok. Coutinho, Aspas and Gerrard netted the goals, as Brendan Rodgers resisted the urge to make wholesale substitutions, instead opting to give most of his star names a 90-minute run-out.

Coutinho celebrates after opening the scoring
Perhaps the most exciting player from pre-season, Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring after quarter of an hour with a beautiful individual effort. Taking advantage of some poor passing from the hosts, Coutinho seized possession and beat three defenders, leaving one on the floor following an exquisite feint, and then found the bottom corner.

Aspas, another whose impressed, added a second five minutes after the interval, converting smartly after Coutinho's insightful through ball had put him in on goal. Aspas then grabbed an assist, laying the ball off for Gerrard to dink the ball over the keeper and into the net to complete the scoring and round off the Reds' performance suitably on the hour mark.

Suarez came on in the closing stages and hit the cross bar, but the headlines, for this friendly at least, were not reserved for the want-away Uruguyuan. Instead, with a goal and an assist each, Coutinho and Aspas were the main names on the lips of Liverpool supporters both in Thailand and back home in Britain. 

The former was the star of the second half of last season after signing from Inter Milan in January and has shown no signs of fading away during pre-season, while £8 million summer signing Aspas has taken to the club like a duck to water, finding the net frequently already. Sure, they're only friendly and the true test of his ability will come in the Premier League, but his displays so far have been nothing but encouraging and he will enter the competitive fixtures knowing that he has the ability to find the back of the net in a Red shirt.

All in all, the Reds' pre-season tour has been worthwhile and beneficial, both on the pitch and off the pitch, with some promising performances from the players and the development of an awesome fan base that provides not only revenue, but also passion for the club. 

3/8/13- Liverpool 2-0 Olympiacos 

Goals from Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson secured a two-goal victory for the Reds, as Liverpool legends Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler returned to Anfield for Steven Gerrard's testimonial match against Greek side Olympiacos, who were famously on the receiving end of perhaps the skipper's best ever strike on the road to the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005.

Unlike on that evening, the visitors never looked like spoiling the party, as a full house at Anfield celebrated the club captain's career of service to Liverpool. Dominant throughout, new signing Iago Aspas and Joe Allen, who has seemingly significantly improved during pre-season after an unimpressive first season at the club, combined to net the opener after 23 minutes. Aspas drove the ball across the face of goal, giving Allen a simple tap in from close range at the back post.

On the hour mark, the crowd gave Luis Suarez and Jamie Carragher an awesome standing ovation as they replaced Aspas and Toure respectively. It was a pertinent reminder of the Kop's love for and loyalty to Luis Suarez, despite his flirtations with rival clubs. Hopefully the Uruguyuan will come to his senses and show some loyalty in return.

The substitute who nobody was standing up for made the most instant impact, however, as Henderson calmly side footed into the net after being played in by Sterling. He then celebrated as if he'd netted in a cup final, perhaps revealing a love for the Reds and desire to make his mark at the club following a difficult start.

Kopites were delighted to welcome back Robbie Fowler, who looked like he'd abandoned his fitness regime in retirement, for the final twenty minutes, but the day ultimately belonged to Steven Gerrard, and he received a raucous reception when he was replaced by Jay Spearing with five minutes remaining.

One word: legend

It was a fitting way to honour perhaps the greatest player in Liverpool's history.

7/8/13- Valerenga 1-4 Liverpool

Liverpool owner John Henry watched on with his wife Linda Pizzuti as the Reds continued their unbeaten pre-season streak against Valerenga in Norway. Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Martin Kelly and Raheem Sterling got the goals for the dominant visitors, while Giancarlo Gonzalez headed home for the hosts to end the Merseysiders run of consecutive clean sheets.

With Agger, Skrtel, Johnson and Sturridge left on the treatment table at home, Rodgers fielded a second string side during the first half. Meanwhile, it is surely not a coincidence that Luis Suarez sustained a foot "injury" that ruled him out of this contest after the outrageous comments he gave to the press he professes to hate recently.

The Reds were dominant from the off, with Stewart Downing, who has been linked with a £5 million move to Newcastle United, particularly impressing with his creativity. The deadlock was broken on the half hour mark, as £6.8 million summer signing Luis Alberto netted his first goal for the club. Fellow new signing Iago Aspas chipped the ball over the keeper and onto the cross bar, but the ball fell to Alberto, who fired smartly into the bottom corner.

Frustratingly, though, Valerenga responded just a few minutes later, Gonzalez evading the attention of captain for the first half Jordan Henderson to head home from a corner. Aspas' fourth goal of pre-season ensured the away side entered the break in front, however, as he tapped home comfortably after Stewart Downing pulled the ball back to him from the touch line.

Ten changes and ten minutes later and Liverpool added to their lead, Martin Kelly fumbling the ball over the line from Philippe Coutinho's corner. It was a scrappy goal but Kelly, who has been plaughed with injuries, will just be happy to continue his recovery by finding the net in a friendly.

Kelly fumbled home Liverpool's third
Toure then showed that he may pose more of an attacking threat than his predecessor Jamie Carragher by thumping a header against the cross bar, before Borini's bad luck in front of goal continued, as his shot from a narrow angle rolled agonisingly across the line and then he smashed the ball against the bar.

Coutinho, almost inevitably, was the architect of the Reds' fourth and final goal in injury time, skipping past several players before finding Assaidi, who set up Sterling for a simple finish from close range.

It was another reassuringly good performance from Liverpool during an obviously incredibly difficult time for the club off-field.

10/8/13- Liverpool 0-1 Celtic

Liverpool ended their pre-season with their first friendly defeat, falling to a one-goal defeat against Scottish Champions Celtic in Dublin. The main positive from a disappointing contest from the Reds' perspective was the return of Daniel Sturridge in the second half after picking up an injury on international duty. The former Chelsea striker looked impressive and raring to go ahead of the start of the season next Saturday at home to Stoke City.

It was a friendly that lived up to the name, as Celtic and Liverpool fans mingled freely in the stands and producing a stirring rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" as the players walked out onto the pitch at the Aviva Stadium in Ireland.

It was great to see Celtic and Liverpool fans sitting together
Unfortunately, the match got off to the worst possible start, as Celtic striker Amido Balde took advantage of an error from Andre Wisdom, who was starting alongside Toure at centre back in the absence of vice-captain Daniel Agger, to find the back of the net despite Mignolet's best efforts to deny him the opener.

Stewart Downing performed quite well, perhaps out of a desire to show Kopites what they'll be missing if his impending move to West Ham takes place. He forced the keeper into an acrobatic save after cutting in from the right wing.

Liverpool remained the dominant side and their attack was given fresh impetus upon the introduction of Sturridge at half time, who went on to link up encouragingly well with Coutinho during the second half. It was centre back Kolo Toure who went closest to levelling things up, though, seeing his headed effort ruled out for offside ten minutes after the restart.

Coutinho and Sturridge worked their magic to nearly equalise in the closing stages, the latter's attempts on goal bouncing wide and flying just over as he showed signs that he may be able to take the mantle of main striker from Luis Suarez, at least while he sits out the rest of his suspension.

Although it was disappointing to end pre-season with a defeat, particularly against one of the two teams expected to test the team a bit more- the other being Olympiacos, Liverpool can still enter the first game of the new Premier League season next Saturday lunch time with optimism.

If three points have been secured against Stoke then nobody will have remember this defeat at 2:30pm in six days time. 

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