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Liverpool Friendly Preview

12 July 2013

After a promising second half of the 2012/13 season, Brendan Rodgers will be confident that his side have enough in their locker to mount a serious challenge this campaign.

However, as the Reds’ trip to Deepdale looms, their preparations have been disrupted by the uncertainty surrounding the future of star striker Luis Suarez.
 
With Liverpool adamant they want their talisman to stay, Rodgers has not let the speculation distract him from his summer business.
 
After club legend Jamie Carragher called time on his football career, Liverpool moved quickly to secure the signing of experienced defender Kolo Toure on a free transfer from Manchester City - one of four new arrivals through the Anfield doors so far this summer.
 
Having impressed during his first season in La Liga last year, striker Iago Aspas was snapped up from Celta Vigo and has been touted as one to watch for this upcoming campaign.
 
Youngster Luis Alberto also joined from Sevilla, after an encouraging season on loan at Barcelona ‘B’, while a more familiar name in Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is another to join the Reds’ ranks, providing competition for Reina.
 
Meanwhile, the Reds exit door has also seen plenty of action.

After a fruitful season on loan at West Ham United, record signing Andy Carroll finally called time on his less than successful Reds career by completing a permanent move to the Hammers, while fellow England international Jonjo Shelvey has also moved on to pastures new, completing a move to Swansea City after seeing his first team opportunities at Anfield limited.
 
Having promised Reds fans there are more arrivals still to come Rodgers is not done yet, as Liverpool look to end their four-year drought without Champions League action.
 
With the uncertainty surrounding Suarez’s future yet to be resolved, only time will tell if their bid to return amongst Europe’s elite is successful.

This, the Anfield outfit’s first pre-season friendly of the new campaign, will surely be utilised to give a few of their new faces a first run out in a red shirt, and, to get some more familiar players’ fitness back to its peak.

Team News
Sebastian Coates, Luis Suarez and Pepe Reina have been given extended breaks, having been involved in the Confederations Cup with their respective national sides, and so will not feature at Deepdale.

The Reds’ January transfer window signing Daniel Sturridge will also miss the game after picking up an ankle injury while on international duty with England at Wembley.

However, the rest of Brendan Rodgers’ first team will be available for selection and PNE can expect to face a strong line up, including the likes of new signings Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet.

Simon Grayson, meanwhile, has a full Lilywhites squad to choose from as North End aim to begin the 2013/14 season in style.

Scott Laird has now fully recovered from the broken leg he sustained last November and hopes to play a part in the game against the Reds. 

Manager
While on paper a seventh placed Premier League finish might seem like a disappointing first season for Brendan Rodgers at Anfield, his side showed enough promise to be considered serious contenders for Champions League football heading into the new campaign.
 
Having won the Champions League back in 2005, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for feeling a sense of frustration at the backwards step their side has taken in recent years.
 
After replacing club legend Kenny Dalglish as manager last summer, Brendan Rodgers is the latest man to take on the challenge of solving Liverpool’s Premier League conundrum.
 
Starting his playing career in his native Northern Ireland, Rodgers joined Reading from Ballymena United when he was just 18, however injury forced him to retire prematurely at just 20 years of age.

Still determined to forge a successful career in football, Rodgers turned to coaching, staying on at Reading as the Club’s Academy manager after previously flitting with non-league football.
 
Rodgers remained with the Royals for nine seasons, until 2004, when newly appointed Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho head-hunted the Northern Irishman to work with the Blues’ youngsters shortly after the ‘Special One’s’ arrival at Stamford Bridge.
 
Within two years Rodgers has worked his way up to the position of reserve team manager, but with managerial ambitions of his own it was a role he would hold for just two years, leaving Chelsea in November 2008 to become a head coach in his own right at Championship side Watford.
 
Departing Vicarage Road in June 2009, Rodgers once again returned to former club Reading as he replaced Steve Coppell as manager. 

However, despite a strong start, his time at the Madejski Stadium was proven to be short-lived as he left the Club by mutual consent after just six months.
 
Following a period out of the game, Rodgers accepted the offer to become manager of Championship side Swansea City in July 2010, having previously held talks about joining Roberto Mancini’s coaching staff at Manchester City.
 
It was during his time at the Liberty Stadium that Rodgers really made a name for himself as a manager, as he led the Swans into the Premier League – the first Welsh team to do so.
 
Having secured a third-place finish in the Championship, Swansea despatched Nottingham Forest in the Championship Play-Off semi-final, setting up a Wembley showdown with Rodgers’ former club Reading for a place amongst England’s elite.
 
A Scott Sinclair hat-trick, as well as a further strike from Stephen Dobbie was enough for the Swans as they claimed a 4-2 victory.
 
Impressing many with their attractive football, Rodgers guided Swansea to an 11th place finish in their first year back in the top flight, with highlights including victories over eventual Champions Manchester City, Arsenal as well as his future employers Liverpool.
 
After deciding to part company with Dalglish, the Reds did not take long to approach Rodgers about becoming the Club’s new manager.
 
Initially turning them down, the Northern Irishman accepted the offer at the second time of asking, and despite an inconsistent 2012/13 campaign, the Anfield outfit showed plenty of promise during Rodgers’ first season in charge.

One To Watch
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognise Steven Gerrard as the heart beat of this Liverpool side – even more so since the departure of his right-hand-man Jamie Carragher.

The Reds skipper and England captain has been a Premier League mainstay for the best part of 15 years, stunning opposition supporters with spectacular long range strikes and crunching tackles alike.

‘Mr Liverpool’, as many commentators have labelled him, grew up on the Bluebell estate in Huyton, dreaming of one day playing for his boyhood side – a dream that came true in 1998.

Gerrard’s debut for the Reds was against Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League, as he replaced Vegard Heggem as a substitute in the closing minutes of the game.

His first Liverpool goal came in the 1999/00 season, after a slaloming run through the Sheffield Wednesday back four saw him one-on-one with the Owl’s ‘keeper, before slotting coolly into the bottom corner.

He soon established himself as Liverpool’s strongest midfielder and was able to shrug off numerous career threatening injuries to make 50 appearances in Liverpool’s 2000/01 treble winning campaign.

It was Gerrard’s first taste of silverware and a season that would spur the Reds’ academy graduate on to further success.

Four years, and another League Cup, later the all-action midfielder played the game of his life in the Champions League Final at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul.

Liverpool were three-nil down to AC Milan when the first half came to an end, but ‘Stevie G’ refused to lie down and inspired the Reds to a historic comeback to win the European Cup for a British record fifth time.

A year later he was at it again, scoring a brace to ensure the FA Cup final against West Ham United went to penalties.

Although Pepe Reina was the spot-kick hero, there was no doubting that Gerrard was the catalyst behind Rafa Benitez’s side lifting the trophy that day – a game casually referred to as ‘The Gerrard Final’ among Kopites.

Seven years down the line and he’s still pulling performance after performance out of the bag for the Anfield side, despite their recent lull in silverware, and will hope he can lead the Reds to another successful season as skipper in the coming campaign.

The Referee
Lancashire-born Neil Swarbrick will take charge of Saturday’s friendly, and is a familiar face to Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side having overseen three games involving the Reds in recent years.

The 47-year-old officiated Aston Villa’s one-nil victory over the Anfield outfit last season as well as the Kopites’ five goal thrashing of Oldham Athletic in 2011/12.

Saturday’s game will be Swarbrick’s first at Deepdale, as his Lancashire allegiances make him ineligible to referee a competitive game involving North End.  
 
Last season, he was relatively lenient towards players, brandishing 111 yellow cards and only one red in 31 games. His most recent competitive fixture was the two-all draw between Wigan Athetic and Aston Villa in the Premier League on 19th May.

Swarbrick recently returned from a summer tournament in Barbados where he refereed matches between ex-professional players.

Ticket News
Tickets are on sale for all areas of the ground, though hospitality has now sold out. The Ticket Office is open from 9am until 5pm on Thursday and 9am until 6pm on Friday.

There are a limited number of tickets available for the away end, though there will be NO cash turnstiles in operation on the day of this game for either sides’ supporters and fans are urged to buy their tickets in advance if possible.

The One And Only
Saturday’s matchday programme is another packed edition, including welcoming interviews with new signings Tom Clarke and Chris Humphrey, a special section dedicated to PNE and Reds legend Bill Shankly and information on the re-launch of children’s supporters club, the Junior Whites.



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