Liverpool continues their preseason preparations with a trip to the KC Stadium, where they’ll work to get up to speed and look to gain momentum ahead of the season opener in three weeks. This marks the midway point of the club’s preseason fixtures, and possibly gives us the first chance to see the Liverpool bow of at least a couple summer signings. As with everything in the preseason, it’s not quite the real thing, but it’s something.
Five of the six preseason matches are away from Anfield, with only the final match against Valencia taking place on Merseyside. Today’s trip is the shortest, though—only two hours separate Liverpool from Hull, which is a far cry from the 2,000+ miles they’ll travel over the next week to face Galatasaray in Istanbul. A welcomed chance to stay closer to home for Kenny Dalglish and company, and a chance for a few more Liverpool supporters to see the club in action before the season gets going proper on August 13th.
For Hull it’s the third match of a five in the preseason; they’ve won twice so far against North Ferriby United (4-1) and Winterton Rangers (2-1) on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, fielding different elevens in the back-to-back matches. Liverpool loanee Peter Gulacsi featured in the win over Winterton and conceded the only Rangers goal, and a host of other new signings made their debuts a day earlier in the rout of North Ferriby.
Over the past few seasons Liverpool’s shared a number of players on loan deals with Hull; Daniel Ayala and David Amoo joined the previously departed Jack Hobbs last season, and Gulacsi joined the club only a week ago. And, like every other club around this time of year, there’s been plenty of movement in other areas—Robbie Brady’s joined Gulacsi on loan from Manchester United, Paul McKenna and Dele Adebola signed on frees from Forest, and Hobbs made his loan move from Leicester City permanent in June.
Maybe the most interesting personnel development recently has been the ongoing Jimmy Bullard saga; the club released a brief and ambiguous statement to go along with reports from all ends that he’s been suspended for two weeks for a “breach of club discipline.” On the heels of talk that he was headed to QPR after a successful loan spell at Ipswich Town during the 2010-2011 season, probably not the type of press Hull were looking for. There’s plenty of recognizable names in the Hull squad for better reasons, though—Matt Duke, Stephen Hunt, Andy Dawson, Paul McShane, and Anthony Gardner are all holdovers from the club’s 2009-2010 Premier League season.
The early talk about today’s match on the Liverpool end has been the chance to see Liverpool’s fresh faces, with Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, and Doni all apparently in the mix to see time.
Kenny Dalglish has, however, unsurprisingly downplayed talk that we’ll see everyone we want:
“We will have a look at them and decide what’s best. There is certainly no rush for us to play anyone in these pre-season games. Stewart has been training for a fortnight and Jordan only started training on Monday. Everyone has trained well this week and the players are looking in good shape. Nowadays they come back looking as fit as they were before the break. But some have started back later than others and we have to take that into consideration.”
Good PR, but not enough to convince that we won’t get at least two of the three—Downing’s fitness doesn’t seem to be in question, and with Gulacsi heading out upon the club’s return from the Asian Tour, you’d guess that Doni would at least be in the squad with only Martin Hansen and Brad Jones left. Less clear is the status of Jordan Henderson; if he’s only been training for the week I’d imagine that a brief stint would be about as much as we could ask for. At least for now, those clamoring to have him as a regular fixture in the starting eleven might have to bide their time.
Otherwise it’s likely the same song and dance, with a good mix of youth and experience, and wholesale changes as available at the half. Dalglish said as much in the link above, along with mentioning some questions about the number of substitutes available—it’s only relevant because the Football League recently passed a ruling that only 5 substitutes would be allowed for league and Johnstone Paint Trophy Cup matches. I can’t imagine that there’d be any restrictions for today’s match, though, and with no reports of any new fitness concerns since the Asian Tour, I’m guessing we’ll see plenty of the squad in action.
And, as usual, we’ll be hoping for everyone to come out the other side more fit than less, and a step closer to being ready to do it for real in three weeks’ time.