A tour that once seemed a long time off is now almost at an end, with only tomorrow's friendly left to separate Liverpool from their final preseason run-in before Premier League action starts. For whatever reason--likely the expanded and more in-depth coverage along with the fantastic support--this tour seems to have resonated more than most, and the club will be able to take home whatever fitness benefits they've gained along with plenty of sentiment from the terrific support.
There's a few off-pitch matters to settle, chief among them the future of Luis Suarez. Brendan Rodgers has asserted that there's other business left to be done, so we'll have to wait to see what's in store for the month of August, which hasn't been devoid of drama in seasons past. Last year was one to forget, but hopefully the successes of January and earlier this summer are repeated prior to September, leaving the club ready to kick on into the fall.
Their opponents tomorrow will hope to see them off with a challenge despite playing in front of a "home" crowd that will be decidedly pro-Liverpool. Thailand suffered a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign, finishing bottom of Group E with only four points, but won the ASEAN Championship, a tournament organized for smaller footballing nations in Southeast Asia. That was followed by two straight losses to start AFC Asian Cup qualifying, though they did bounce back with a 5-1 win over China in the middle of June.
Fitness news didn't come out until just before kickoff in Melbourne, with Kolo Toure and Philippe Coutinho both left out because of slight injuries in training. Both should be available tomorrow, but we'll have to wait for confirmation. Luis Suarez has obviously again been a hot topic of conversation, with the club denying that he's for sale and asserting that they won't be selling to anyone they consider a direct rival (i.e., Arsenal), but Brendan Rodgers has noted that he'll again expect the Uruguayan to be involved as plays catch-up with the rest of the group.
If Toure's fit he'll likely pair Daniel Agger, with Martin Skrtel and Andre Wisdom also likely getting time. Preseason is preseason and etc., but there's a lovely little central defensive battle going on. Skrtel and Wisdom looked very, very good in Melbourne, and Agger and Toure have proved more than capable as the frontrunners. Neither pairing has been tested too much, but with both looking competent it's going to be interesting to see where things go from here.
Midfield forward will likely again see the most experimentation--at the MCG we saw Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, and Jordan Henderson starting, with Lucas replacing Gerrard early in the second half. I'd be surprised if that same three started and Lucas was left out again, but it's not clear yet what Rodgers wants to go with as his first-choice setup. We know it'll be flexible both between and during matches, and the range of personnel available seem to fit that mold, including the versatile Luis Alberto, who's featured comfortably both deeper and further forward to this point.
Suarez may not start (though it wouldn't be surprising if he did) but will feature, as will the other familiar faces throughout the forward areas. Though it's preseason, it seems like folks are running out of patience with Fabio Borini, and he'll need a good showing or thirty before the sentiment swings back toward okay maybe I'm thinking I might stop making stupid jokes about him. Iago Aspas got limited minutes against Melbourne but will hopefully see more time tomorrow, and there will again be space for Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe to impress.
Kickoff is again earlier than we're used to, with the start time set for 11:40AM BST/6:40AM EST. Coverage should be easy enough to find, with ESPNUK and LFCTV airing the match in England, and NESN showing it live in the US, with a replay on BeIN Sport at 12:00PM EST (HT Mr. Sanchez). We'll have the matchday thread up for the overnight and team sheets closer to kickoff, and we'll be around here and on Twitter bright and early throughout. Hope you'll stop by if, like us, you're foolish enough to be awake.