And away we go.
Some of Liverpool’s biggest guns saw their first preseason action Sunday in the Reds’ 1-0 victory over Olympiacos in their opening game of the 2014 International Champions Cup. Other Reds continued on their journey toward full fitness three weeks before the start of the 2014-15 Premier League season.
The sight of Steven Gerrard leading the Reds onto the field for the first time this summer is a symbolic for us all. We can now start genuinely assessing Liverpool’s performances ahead of the new season. Liverpool’s starting 11 included longtime captain Gerrard, six other World Cup participants (all but Jordan Henderson were making preseason debuts), defensive stalwart Martin Skrtel and veteran left back Jose Enrique, who is trying to earn Rodgers’ full trust after an injury-plagued 2013-14 season.
The strength of Liverpool’s lineup gave fans a glimpse of familiarity — a 60-minute demonstration of the Reds’ famous playing style under Rodgers — before almost universal substitutions by both teams permanently altered the flow of the game.
Liverpool defended well as a unit and selflessly pressured Olympiacos during that first period. The Reds also created danger with their speedy counter-attacks. Goal-scorer Raheem Sterling, fellow winger (and new signing) Lazar Markovic and striker Daniel Sturridge can threaten with their pace and quality. If the trio clicks and grows together as one, it could have the makings of a new “big three” — an attacking trident whose goals will power Liverpool’s challenges for honors at home and abroad.
There was something new, as Emre Can added his own drive and bite to Liverpool’s midfield. The 21-year-old also is one of this summer’s new arrivals. He didn’t look out of place next to the ever-present Gerrard and Henderson.
There also was more of the old. Philippe Coutinho, who Rogers called the “brain” of the team last week, was a focal point of the attack during his second-half run-out.
For the second straight postgame press conference, Rodgers didn’t spend much time discussing the result. Instead, he told the media that he was happy with his team’s performance, but the progress of his new signings and returning stars gives him greater delight.
“I’m really pleased with how it’s all coming along,” Rodgers reflected. “The World Cup players have only really just come back. They’ve only really been with the squad in the last week or so.
“I’ve been delighted. I know this group well and know the players coming in are suited and will fit what we’re trying to do.
Neither the win nor the performance was particularly emphatic, but it was encouraging to see how Liverpool play its signature soccer just one game into the stateside preseason tournament. Many of the Reds were scattered throughout various national teams this summer, but they came back looking fresh, albeit not at their sharpest. The weeks spent playing for different coaches in alternate realities did little to dull the Reds’ well-honed Anfield instincts, and they returned to field ready to build on those strong, existing foundations.
Photo via LiverpoolFC.com