Liverpool has a chance to advance to the finals of the International Champions Cup with a win versus AC Milan on Saturday, August 2. The game is to be played at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina in front of a sold out crowd of around 74,000. Liverpool leads Group B of the tournament with five points, while AC Milan is sitting on the bottom of the group, having yet to earn a point from either game they have played.
The Rossaneri have been outscored 8-1 under new coach Filippo Inzaghi. The new coach controversially took over the squad from former teammate Clarence Seedorf in June. Milan has been unable to find a good balance in their defense with central defenders Adil Rami, Alex and Philippe Mexes all looking slow and unimpressive in their two International Champions Cup games.
A group of young midfielders has anchored the pitch, with Bryan Cristante and Andrea Poli joining up with veterans Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari. The midfielders have looked unaccustomed to each other though, and have been sliced through with quick passes and vertical movement, which Liverpool has plenty of. Even the attacking players for Milan consisting of Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy and Keisuke Honda have looked lethargic, but they have not played many minutes together to build up good preseason chemistry.
Liverpool on the other hand have been playing particularly well despite losing their best player last year, Luis Suarez, to Barcelona. The Reds have fielded fairly strong teams in their two International Champions Cup wins. Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson have all played solid minutes. They constituted the core of players that propelled Liverpool to a second place finish in the Barclays Premier League last year.
New signings Emre Can, Rickie Lambert and Lazar Markovic have also featured, with the latter available against AC Milan after sitting out of the Manchester City game due to a minor knock in training. Dejan Lovren, who just signed for Liverpool from Southampton, will not be joining the squad though. He was unable to get a work permit in time to come to America.
Brendan Rogers, the Liverpool manager, will be confident his side can get the job done against AC Milan and advance to the finals of the International Champions Cup. The team’s defense has been playing well and now is boosted by the additions of first team keeper Simon Mignolet and center back Mamadou Sakho. Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure and Sebastian Coates have all been getting significant minutes in defense and have done well. The lads attack has also been flourishing, with Sterling and Coutinho looking particularly bright going forward.
If Liverpool can manage a win, either in regular time or penalties, then the Reds will be in Miami on August 4 to face the winner of Group A. At the moment Manchester United is top of Group A with five points. The Red Devils will play Real Madrid in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday, August 2 with a chance to clinch a trip to Miami as well. A Liverpool versus Manchester United final has the makings for a lively affair between two teams with rich history and a fearsome rivalry. Brendan Rogers has recently stated his admiration for Louis van Gaal, the new Manchester United manager, and would love to defeat him and show the notably arrogant Dutchman that the Premier League will be no cakewalk for United.
AC Milan will not want to leave the American tour without a win though. It is expected that Inzaghi will field a more experienced line-up and leave his starters on for longer in order to give the club some pride heading back to Italy. Therefore, it is likely there will be extended minutes from Muntari, El Shaarawy, Balotelli and Honda. Liverpool will also continue to field their strongest line-up and build chemistry between some of their new signings, Lambert, Can and Markovic and their regulars Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Sterling and Sturridge. Liverpool will likely be too strong for AC Milan though, and the team’s winning streak will continue to the finals of the International Champions Cup by virtue of an anticipated two-goal victory in regular time.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash