Ahead of kickoff in Jakarta I joked on Twitter that Liverpool should play all their home matches there because of the fantastic support, and I was promptly informed that I was a wool for saying so. That's probably true, and though dream of making the club travel thousands of miles the day before a match will never be realized, I'm guessing I might say something similarly woolish before tomorrow's match against Melbourne Victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where they're expecting upwards of 90,000 supporters to be in attendance.
That's a staggering audience for a preseason fixture, but it again underlines the impressive support the club's gathered worldwide, and for those in Australia it'll be a great chance to see the squad live. There's a slightly more competitive and serious tone to this preseason for Liverpool, so while there's nothing formal at stake, we can again expect there to be both an overwhelming amount of support and a squad working hard to get themselves into shape as mid-August fast approaches.
As is so often the case during the preseason, the quality of the competition is going to be varied; Preston looked far off the pace, the Indonesia XI offered little resistance despite Liverpool's general lack of impetus, and Melbourne Victory will have a glut of absences to deal with tomorrow due to Australia's participation in the East Asian Football Federation's East Asia Cup. Our old friend Nathan (Grubb in the comments from a ways back) over at the excellent Paisley Gates blog has the rundown, both of the squad members that'll be missing as well as the Victory as a whole:
The only standout senior players left are former Fulham defender Adrian Leijer, Victory's captain, who is quite a decent central defender at A-League level, and jet-heeled Ivorian Adama Traore (LB), who is pacy enough to give Glen Johnson a good workout. The rest of the side will be made up of promising youngsters such as Nick Ansell (CB), Andrew Nabbout (WF), and Theo Markelis (ST). Which is to say, our U21 side would probably be comfortable favourites against a team of this calibre, shorn of so many of its better quality players.
The biggest storyline will be how many minutes are afforded to Luis Suarez, who joined the squad along with Sebastain Coates after an extended holiday due to Uruguay's Confederations Cup participation. A start is doubtful, but if Brendan Rodgers decides to go with a similar approach he used in Jakarta--giving starters an hour or so, bringing on a fresh squad for the final twenty-odd minutes--it's likely that Suarez (and maybe even Coates!) will see out tomorrow's match.
What's more interesting is what Rodgers does decide to do with the starting eleven, as those selected to face the Indonesia XI seemed to be close to a full-strength lineup. Clearly upgrades were needed, and there's hopefully going to be some new faces prior to August 17, but given who's available, that eleven was likely close to what we'll be getting when Stoke visit Anfield. I'm guessing it'll be more of the same tomorrow, hopefully with some time allotted for Brad Jones to get a spell in goal in front of his home nation's supporters.
Coates' return probably doesn't do much to impact the pecking order in central defense, though Rodgers might opt to change the pairings now that he's got all of his center-backs available. Kolo Toure's partnered Daniel Agger both times out, with Martin Skrtel and Andre Wisdom taking over in the second halves of both preseason matches. I'd argue that Coates should be ahead of Wisdom, but with his future uncertain, I don't know if he'll manage to work his way in.
Tomorrow should afford a better chance for the squad to retain possession and keep things a bit tidier; the pitch at the MCG looks far better than what they had in Jakarta, and with two matches and weeks of training under their belt, there's no doubt that the expectation will now be for the squad to continue their progress as the start of the Premier League season approaches.
Kickoff is going to be a killer for those stateside--11:00AM BST/6:00AM EST, with a range of outlets again airing the match live. LFCTV will have it again for their subscribers both on TV and online, ESPNUK should have it again, and BeIN Sports will have it on
bright and early replay at 2:00PM EST for those in the US. I'll be getting up just before the match starts, which will be 4:00AM local time, so team sheets will be updated just before the match starts. Hope you'll be around if you're awake.
**As pointed out in the comments, Rodgers has gone back on the likelihood that Suarez and Coates will play a part, stating that he "very much doubts" they'll be ready.**