Anfield calling… for a friendly
In 7 days time, we will be just 90 minutes away from kick off at Anfield for the first friendly to be hosted at the club’s home stadium in 4 years. The building of the new main stand and extensive work on relaying the pitch meant there had been no home friendly since 2014. Before the enforced break from hosting these matches, the last time Liverpool had not held a friendly at Anfield was in the 2010-2011 as a newly-appointed Roy Hodgson attempted to negotiate his team into the Europa League group stage, although Anfield did host a testimonial for the long serving Jamie Carragher. The year before saw Liverpool lose a friendly at Anfield for the last time when Atletico Madrid beat Liverpool 2-1 as Manchester forwards past and present scored in the shape of Sergio Aguero (latterly of Manchester City) and Diego Forlan (formerly of Manchester United) before Lucas Leiva claimed a goal. Liverpool scored with 8 minutes to go and moments later, there were penalty appeals as Lucas was barged off the ball, however the penalty claims were dismissed preventing Liverpool from a chance to grab an equaliser and in the time that remained, the scoreboard failed to be troubled.
In 2011, Valencia were the visitors to Anfield with Andy Carroll scoring in the opening 10 minutes and Sotirios Kyrgiakos grabbing the 2nd as time ebbed away. A year later and Sami Hyypia made a return to Anfield in a managerial role with the German side Bayer Leverkusen, who 10 years earlier had dumped a Liverpool side containing Hyypia out of the Champions League. It proved to be an unhappy homecoming for big Sami, 3 years after leaving Liverpool and almost leaving with a goal, only for Heurelho Gomes to deny him from a corner. Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners with Raheem Sterling scoring as well as Andy Carroll and another pre-season goal for Lucas.
In 2013, the friendly at Anfield took on even more prestige as Steven Gerrard announced the match would double up as his testimonial and would allow the recently retired Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler play alongside the team that would end up challenging for a Premier League title that season against Olympiakos, a side chosen in part due to the memorable night in December 2004 that kept Liverpool on the road to Istanbul and a 5th European Cup triumph. Midfielders Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson got the goals on the day as as a 2-0 victory was secured.
On the 10th August 2014, Liverpool welcomed Jurgen Klopp and his Borussia Dortmund side to Anfield for what was to be the final friendly to take place in front of the old Main Stand and it was to be a resounding victory in front of supporters, who were wondering what the post Luis Suarez era would look like for the reds having seen the Uruguayan head to Barcelona a month earlier. There were no worries on the pitch as goals from Daniel Sturridge, summer signing Dejan Lovren, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson saw a demolition job of the Germans with the final score of 4-0.
It could have been Germans providing the opposition for the first friendly in front of the new Main Stand however if reports are to be believed, an illegal pursuit of Rhian Brewster, rendered Borussia Mönchengladbach’s invitation to be revoked although there was no official word from the club although it was reported in the Liverpool Echo. The opponents instead will be Torino, who are probably most known for being the side that Joe Hart went on loan to in 2016 as Guardiola dispensed with his services although he did feature for City against Liverpool in a pre-season friendly. They finished 9th in Serie A last season 3 points below Fiorentina. They have a once rumoured Liverpool target Adem Ljajić in their side as well as the former PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. They also boast a compatriot of Sadio Mane in the form of M’Baye Niang who was part of the World Cup squad for Senegal and scored the deciding goal in a 2-1 group stage win over Poland.
This match will almost certainly provide the Anfield faithful with their first glimpses of Xherdan Shaqiri, Naby Keita, Alisson Becker and Fabinho on their home turf with the Brazilian goalkeeper set to face Napoli in Dublin this weekend and the other 3 signings having featured in friendlies already. It is expected to be a very strong Liverpool side, especially with the curtain raiser taking place the following Sunday against West Ham United.
Anfield itself looks so different from the last time it hosted a friendly, in addition to the main stand and significant pitch work, there has been new disability seating as well as slight extensions to part of the Kop and there is a new scoreboard that was installed in 2016 and a further scoreboard added in 2017 viewable to those in the Main Stand. Some people will say it doesn’t matter what the results are in the friendlies, it’s how we perform against West Ham but it would be great to get a comprehensive victory and get the confidence high for the new campaign.