Saturday, 2nd August 2014, Guinness International Cup
Kick Off: 6.30pm (EST) 11.30pm (BST)
Liverpool play their final group game of the Guinness International Cup on Saturday night when they take on AC Milan in Charlotte, North Carolina. A win for the Reds would see them qualify for the final of the friendly competition – which takes place just two days later in Miami.
A 3-1 win on penalties over Manchester City on Wednesday in New York positioned Liverpool at the top of Group B. Manchester United currently top Group A.
Saturday’s game sees Liverpool meet another of the clubs historic opponents in sleeping giants, Milan, who currently sit at the bottom of the group after suffering heavy defeats against both Olympiacos and Man City, losing 3-0 and 5-1 respectively in their first two games of the tournament.
Another spectacular setting is to host the clash, which will this time be played in the picturesque Bank of America Stadium – home of NFL side Carolina Panthers. Capacity at the ground which opened in 1996 is at the highest it’s been and can now host around 74,000 fans.
The Liverpool squad thankfully appear to have come through the match against City unscathed and despite the game being played on a difficult surface, seemingly no new injuries have been added to the list of current absentees which includes new-boy Lazar Markovic, who picked up a minor knock in training but is reported to be available to take part on Saturday.
Martin Skrtel was also left out of the squad on Thursday as Brendan Rodgers afforded game time to fringe players Kolo Toure and Sebastian Coates as gaining fitness is the main aim of any pre-season schedule.
Almost the whole squad have received adequate match minutes and Rodgers is likely to continue to rotate his team in preparation for the opening day of the season, which is now just 15 days away.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) July 31, 2014
Wednesday morning saw disappointing news emerge that new signing Dejan Lovren has been unable to obtain a work permit in enough time to join up with his new teammates, and as a result, he is set to remain on Merseyside instead, where he’ll train to a specialised schedule sent by the Liverpool manager and with the under 21s as he waits for the first team squad to arrive home.
Lovren: “I will train with the U-21 team in Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers will send a program for me to practice.”
— Kop 305 (@Kop305) July 30, 2014
Lovren’s potential centre back partner Mamadou Sakho and Simon Mignolet received the first minutes of pre-season since re-joining the squad, and both impressed for the duration of time that they were on the pitch, with the Belgian keeper saving two City penalties.
Forgotten man Coates produced an excellent display at the heart of the Reds’ defence, and the Uruguayan may have provided a little food for thought for Rodgers at a time where he is linked with a move to Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna.
— LFCZA (@LFCZA) July 31, 2014
The Rossoneri are now under the guidance of former Italian goal-poacher Filipo Inzaghi, who took over from ex-teammate Clarence Seedorf in June, and Saturday’s meeting will be the first time the two clubs have met since that forgettable defeat in Athens of May 2007, in which the new boss scored what proved to be the winning the goal.
Inzaghi has inherited an ageing squad at the San Siro – one which finished in 8th position and 45 points behind league winners Juventus last season – meaning Milan will not participate in any European competition during the forthcoming season for the first time since the 1998-99 season where a 10th place finish meant they missed out.
The former Italian international striker named a 31-man squad for their tour of the US & Canada which includes former Premier League players Alex, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Mario Balotelli, but ex-Man City wizard Robinho has been left out as he reportedly negotiates a move away from Milan. The squad also consists of one-time rumoured Liverpool transfer targets Philippe Mexes, and Colombian international Christian Zapata.
Milan will want to salvage some pride from a poor tournament on Saturday night – in a fixture that will be shown live on Sky Sports 1 – but Liverpool know if they emerge victorious they will progress to Monday’s final when they could face a rival clash against Manchester United.
TV: Live on NBC in America / Sky Sports 1 in UK