5 things to look out for during Liverpool’s 2 pre-season games in Hong Kong

With Liverpool arriving in Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia Trophy, Jurgen Klopp can continue to run the rule over his squad ahead of 2017/18.


The Reds landed on Monday morning, with Klopp taking a 25-man squad to the Far East for two upcoming clashes with Premier League opposition.

First up is a “semi-final” against Crystal Palace at the Hong Kong Stadium on Wednesday, before either a final or a third-place play-off against either Leicester City or West Brom on Saturday.

Having already beaten Tranmere Rovers and drawn with Wigan Athletic in two domestic friendlies this summer, Klopp’s preparations are well underway.

But what else can we look out for as the Reds play their first two overseas fixtures of the summer?

Here are five things to keep an eye on, including an opportunity for Danny Ward.

 

How Ward Responds to the Challenge Ahead

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - Saturday, June 11, 2016: Wales' goalkeeper Daniel Ward warms-up before the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship match against Slovakia at Stade de Bordeaux. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having missed the first two friendlies of the summer due to a minor back injury, Ward has travelled to Hong Kong looking to make his maiden appearance of pre-season.

The 24-year-old enjoyed a hugely positive spell on loan with Huddersfield Town in 2016/17, starting in all but three games in the Championship and saving three penalties in the play-offs.

It should be no surprise that the Terriers were eager to sign Ward on a permanent basis, but Klopp has made it clear that the Wales international is part of his plans for the upcoming campaign.

He faces a fight for a starting berth, however, with Simon Mignolet established and Loris Karius primed for a renewed challenge in his second season on Merseyside.

But Ward should be given an opportunity in the Far East, and it will be interesting to see how he copes.

 

Who is Klopp’s First-Choice Right-Back?

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 12, 2017: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold in action against Tranmere Rovers during a preseason friendly match at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

No Liverpool player featured more heavily than Nathaniel Clyne last season, with the England right-back playing 3,616 minutes in all competitions, making 40 starting appearances.

It was something of a surprise, therefore, to see 18-year-old academy product Trent Alexander-Arnold start in Klopp’s stronger lineup away to Tranmere, with Clyne restricted to the bench.

Alexander-Arnold impressed hugely, and with Clyne injured for the trip to Wigan, built on this strong display with another productive 45 minutes driving down the right flank at the DW Stadium.

The teenager signed a new five-year contract on his return to pre-season training, with Klopp testifying that “progress is rewarded,” adding that “Trent has earned this new deal.”

Klopp is an admirer of Clyne, but Hong Kong could further illuminate who he sees as his first-choice right-back.

 

Can Gomez Impress at Centre-Back?

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 12, 2017: Liverpool's Joe Gomez in action against Tranmere Rovers during a preseason friendly match at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Joe Gomez has been something of a peripheral figure in pre-season so far, as part of Klopp’s second-half lineup at Tranmere, and then fielded out of position at right-back at Wigan.

Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are currently established as the Reds’ leading centre-back pairing, while Ragnar Klavan is on hand to provide backup and Klopp is targeting Southampton‘s Virgil van Dijk.

But with Lucas Leiva heading to Lazio, there is currently an opportunity for Gomez to impress at the heart of the defence, which remains his natural role.

Likely part of Klopp’s starting lineup in one of the two games, Gomez can hope to shine at the back, showcasing his strength, speed, intelligence and composure in possession.

If he still fails to stand out, it could be that he is considered for a season-long loan, with Brighton & Hove Albion interested.

 

Kent’s Test on a Bigger Stage

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 12, 2017: Liverpool's Ryan Kent in action against Tranmere Rovers during a preseason friendly match at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With Klopp’s attacking options improving at Wigan, Sheyi Ojo, Harry Wilson and Lazar Markovic were all left on Merseyside as the Reds took their 13-hour flight to Hong Kong.

One shock inclusion, however, was Ryan Kent, with both him and Ben Woodburn joining senior figures like Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah in Klopp’s 25-man group.

Kent was certainly impressive in his second-half display against Tranmere, with his pace, skill and direct attacking style making him a standout performer on the left wing.

But with that coming against National League opposition, and his last experience of first-team football came on loan with Barnsley in the Championship, it remains to be seen whether he can make the step up.

Testing Kent against Premier League opposition in the Far East could allow Klopp to decide whether he stays or goes this summer, with Hull City seeking a deal.

 

Salah’s Continued Bedding-In Process

WIGAN, ENGLAND - Friday, July 14, 2017: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action against Wigan Athletic during a preseason friendly match at the DW Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After completing his £36.9 million move from AS Roma and finalising his work permit following a trip to Paris, Salah made his first appearance for Liverpool at the DW.

He was bright from the first whistle, latching onto a Coutinho pass in the second minute to burst into the box and send a powerful shot just wide of Christian Walton’s post.

That set the tone for the rest of the half, with Salah capping his Reds bow with the equalising goal on the stroke of half-time—though the Egyptian himself would admit that he was far from his best.

Hong Kong will provide Salah with an opportunity to continue to bed in within Klopp’s squad, off the pitch as much as on it, with that display in Wigan just a taste of what is to come.

Expect the 25-year-old to hit the ground running against Palace on Wednesday.

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