Kickoff from Guangdong Provincial People's Stadium at 1:00PM GMT, 8:00AM EST
Ways to Watch:
Live on ESPNUK in England and FSC in America, as well as on LFCtv online for those with a season pass.
It's six weeks since the close of the 2010-11 season, and Liverpool's already set to kick off 2011-12 with a preseason visit to Guangzhou to face Guangdong Sunray Cave. Yes, it's a match largely dictated by a desire to expand commercial revenue flowstreams into the far east. Yes, it's a valuable market for Standard Chartered and they'll be nearly as thrilled to see Liverpool paraded around Guangzhou as they would be should the club unexpectedly dig up a promising prospect while in China. Yes, as a match it means absolutely nothing when it comes to trying to figure out what the new season might have in store. And yes, Guangdong Sunray Cave is a name nearly as ridiculous as Real Salt Lake or Chivas USA.
Still: Football. Liverpool. Woo.
With that out of the way, Guangdong plays in China League One, the second division of Chinese football and below their Super League. It's also a summer league and half way through a 26 game season, with Guangdong currently sitting a distant second out of fourteen sides and in place to be promoted as things currently stand.
It's a squad made up of a whole bunch of Chinese names you won't know as well as a Colombian, Costa Rican, and Cameroonian one you also won't know. No news on if they'll be looking to nab a player from Chad, Canada, or the Czech Republic to round things out in the future. In any case, Costa Rican defender Dario Delgado was called up to his country's Gold Cup squad earlier in the sumer and participated in three matches. Meanwhile midfielder Yin Hongbo stands top scorer in the side with five goals after sixteen league rounds played so far this season. Google told me these things so that you don't have to waste your time actively looking for them.
As for the club's crazy name, it comes as a result of a 50% ownership stake by Dongguan Sunray Cave Group, Ltd., who according to their corporate website may or may not be "a world-oriented and multi-trade cooperation" focused on the design, manufacture, and distribution of sunray caves, low-quality sunray cave knockoffs, or anything really at all to do with either sunrays or caves. The part in quotation marks is from their site, I mean. Not the stuff about caves. I really don't have the slightest clue what they do. For all I know they make the cheap iPhone skins you can get for 37¢ on eBay.
On the Liverpool side of things, the names are going to be fairly well known, with Adam the only new signing on display and Konchesky the only familiar name having already departed. Of course Luis Suarez and Lucas Leiva are still in Argentina, busy at the Copa America. Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson hasn't joined up post-u21 European Championships as of yet and Martin Skrtel is back in Liverpool awaiting the birth of his child. Pepe Reina and Steven Gerrard also won't be anywhere near the pitch, as they're continuing to rehabilitate from surgeries but expected to be fit and ready for the start of the season.
With Reina gone, it means a bigger role in preseason for keepers Gulacsi and Jones, though given the rumblings that Jones is set to be replaced as second keeper while the promising Gulacsi may be loaned out to actually get some match experience, it stands to reason that Gulacsi will get the bulk of playing time in Asia as he's a player the club still appears to have future hopes for. Aside from that, though, all your Kuyts and Carrolls and Carraghers and Maxis and Johnsons will be there in what will be a fairly strong and recognisable squad despite the aforementioned absences.
One added point of interest on the player front for many will likely be a first chance to see Alberto Aquilani in match action for the club in a year. It should also mean the debut at some point for Charlie Adam, even if he doesn't start. Though on the off-chance he can only manage to match his 45% pass success rate from when Blackpool went up against Blackburn last season, it's probably best for everybody to put it down to Guangdong wearing all orange kits and him mistaking them for his Blackpool teammates. Or something.
Beyond that, it's a friendly. And the first friendly of the new season, even. The players are there to get a little bit of fitness as they begin to slowly work themselves up to match speed for when the Premier League season begins in mid-August, and whatever happens will likely have no meaningful impact on the coming season. Is Cole getting a run out to get him fit, or is he being put in the shop window? Is Meireles not getting much time because Dalglish wants him gone, or because he's a known quantity that doesn't need to be scrutinised? Chances are, whatever happens, it means nothing. Unless it doesn't.
And just to keep everybody on their toes, Liverpool's second friendly of the preseason comes on Saturday, when the club heads to Malaysia to face a league all-star team. That day's kick-off is scheduled for 10:45AM GMT/5:45AM EST. Oh, and...
Bring Me Back an iPhone Skin:
It originally ran on ESPN Soccernet back in April when I answered a few questions from Ethan Dean-Richards, their West Bromwich Albion correspondent. One of those questions involved having me describe my perfect evening with the physical embodiment of West Brom the football club. And since I don't feel like doing any more research on Guangdong Sunray Cave, I'm now reprinting it here:
Well, you know. We'd probably meet at a party. Or something. We'd hit it off, share a few laughs, a few drinks, discuss the legacy of French colonialism in West Africa while using only lines from Monty Python's Life of Brian. I'm not sure quite how that would work, but I'm also not sure how I'd end up talking to the physical embodiment of a football club, and it likely says something deeply Freudian—or Jungian, perhaps, as I gather it's always one or the other—about my mental state that I assume such speculative physical embodiment would take female form.
But anyhow, we might get a bit into the inevitable march towards the desertification of Siberia as thousands of square kilometers of forest are razed every year to work around Russian logging regulations and feed the insatiable Chinese industrial machine. Then we'd compare iPhone skins we bought on eBay direct from Guangzhou for 37¢, and we'd laugh because the world's probably going to ruin no matter what you do so you might as well buy 37¢ iPhone skins direct from China and just hope they don't have too much lead in them. And then she would say that maybe if she was the embodiment of Barcelona or something she'd be able to draw enough attention to issues to make a difference but she isn't, she's just plain old West Bromwich Albion Football Club.
So I'd try to assure her that she really is the most beautiful embodiment of a football club I've ever seen. That if I hadn't done a quick check on Wikipedia using my iPhone with the 37¢ direct from Guangzhou skin I wouldn't have guessed she was a day over a hundred and twenty. But she's already pretty far gone and crying about how her new boyfriend who she thought was the steady and respectable grown up sort hits her when nobody's around and all she really wants is her dashing Italian ex back, even if her mother always said their relationship didn't have a future.
I wouldn't know what to say at that point, and I would have had a lot to drink. So I'd probably just throw up on our shoes. Because if I was good at dealing with people I'd be out talking to them instead of writing on the internet about perfect evenings with physical embodiments of football clubs. And because perfection is a surprisingly relative concept heavily influenced by initial expectations.
So. Enjoy the first Liverpool-like substance of 2011-12 as we all prepare for the new season. And if things somehow go horribly, horribly wrong, do try to remember it's just a meaningless friendly. Though if it all goes better than planned it's probably an omen signaling league dominance.