Match Preview: Preston North End v. Liverpool, 07.13.13

Charlie Crowhurst

Liverpool kick off their preseason slate in Lancashire, where they'll face Preston North End at Deepdale in what's been dubbed "The Shankly Shield."

It's always hard to shake the feeling that summer only exists for rumors and drunken sobbing, as much of what carries the first month and a half after the end of the season is speculation and intrigue rather than things that are actually happening. We're here for the football but spend a maddening amount of time talking about anything but the actual football, and while preseason might not mean much, it's a match, and it's something we can actually see happening.

Tomorrow does have the added sentimentality of the two clubs' shared history with Bill Shankly; the Scotsman finished his playing career after sixteen years at Preston North End before moving into management and ultimately into Liverpool folklore by setting the foundation for decades of dominance. Tomorrow's winner will be presented the specially designed shield by Shankly's granddaughter, Karen Gill, not only to commemorate the match but also to celebrate what would be the legendary manager's 100th birthday in September. Meaningless match, maybe, but a wonderful occasion to remember a man whose presence was so vital at both clubs.

Present-day Preston have another season in League One to look forward to after finishing 14th last season, firmly midtable and eleven points off the drop. After starting 2013 in dismal form, they put together a solid run from mid-February on, losing only three times in fifteen matches en route to securing survival. And while tomorrow won't mean too terribly much for them either, manager Simon Grayson doesn't have quite as much time to prepare for when it matters, and will have an eye on Wolves' visit to Deepdale on August 3rd to kick off the League One season.

Their most notable activity this summer has been the signing of former England international Kevin Davies, who joined Grayson's squad on a two-year deal after ten years with Bolton. They also brought back Declan Rudd on another loan deal, this time on a full-season deal that was announced just a few weeks ago; the young Norwich goalkeeper moved to Preston in January and appeared in fourteen matches in the spring. Last season's top goalscorers are back in Nicky Wroe and Stuart Beavon, who scored eight and six respectively, and the club recently announced that they found a way to keep Iain Hume aboard after restructuring his wages.

For Liverpool:

Mignolet
Johnson Toure Agger Robinson
Lucas Allen
Coutinho
Downing Aspas Sterling

BJones
Wisdom Skrtel Sama Enrique
Coady Henderson
Alberto
Morgan Borini Ibe

Bench: (take your pick from) Ward, Kelly, Flanagan, McLaughlin, LJones, Smith, Teixeira, Gerrard, Assaidi, Sinclair, Pacheco...others?

Picking an eleven for preseason is impossible, so this is a couple of random guesses as to what we might expect if Brendan Rodgers decides to go with two different elevens for the two halves. Luis Suarez, Sebastian Coates, and Pepe Reina are yet to return from their respective international duties, Daniel Sturridge has only been out of his cast for a week, and Steven Gerrard is probably a substitute at best. All else appears to be good on the injury front.

What's likely is a mixture of youngsters and first-team talent for each of the two halves; we'll get 45-minute chunks for most of those involved, and as Jake has outlined in the two-part review of the U21s (Part One here, Part Two here), there's plenty of younger talent that we'll have a chance to watch both tomorrow and throughout the remainder of the preseason.

Most exciting--aside from the fact that it's Liverpool back in an actual (sort of) match--is the opportunity to see the new boys in action, each of whom should get a decent amount of time. Iago Aspas' starting position here won't mean much, but with Sturridge racing the clock to be fit for the opener against Stoke just over a month from now and Suarez banned, there's a very good chance he could be leading the line centrally. Rodgers has also asserted that each of Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure, and Luis Alberto will "all get a run-out."

For the rest it's standard preseason fare, and the personnel won't mean as much as the opportunity to play in a setting slightly more competitive than intrasquad training matches. Furthering fitness and a chance for the youngsters to mix it up with the first-teamers are the most important, as we won't see anything with much bearing on how Liverpool will actually line up on August 17 until the last few friendlies.

Kickoff from Deepdale is set for 3:00PM BST/10:00AM EST, and BeIn Sports (HT to Alcatrazzle) will be airing the match live stateside, while LFCTV--which is available in England on Sky and Virgin, and worldwide online for subscribers--will also have coverage. Team news and match updates will be easily found, and we'll have the lineups along with ways to watch and other etcetera in the matchday thread early in the day tomorrow.

Hope you'll be around to join us for the first of many.

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