The final friendly, and, at least on paper, Liverpool’s most difficult opponent. It’s no doubt been a challenging preseason for Kenny Dalglish and company, and if earlier results in the preseason are any indication, Saturday’s match poses a hefty challenge of its own. Valencia have won four of their five friendlies thus far, getting past opponents like PSV Eindhoven, Sporting CP, and Hamburg SV, dropping only an away match to perennial Austrian powers Rapid Vienna. They’ve only conceded once outside of the match in Vienna (in which they shipped four in a hotly-contested match), and will enter Saturday’s match with a talented squad.
By the end of the month that squad will be bolstered by the arrival of Real Madrid midfielder Sergio Canales on loan; the twenty year-old will join a midfield already stacked with names like Ever Banega, David Albelda, Tino Costa, Joaquin, and Mehmet Topal. Up front things will, of course, be focused on perennial lust object Juan Mata—after a sparkling summer to help the U21s to Euro glory in Denmark, he was heavily linked with a move to the Premier League and, if you were tweeting about it enough, Liverpool. That link has died down significantly, with Arsenal nudging ahead to take most of the headlines recently. Valencia’s position has waffled a bit, first acknowledging that the player might leave, then stating that no offers would be considered. With a few weeks left there’s still a chance something might happen, but the chances of that something having anything to do with Liverpool are slim.
With two weeks left to go before their own league opener and some nice sentimental links with Liverpool—Fabio Aurelio won two titles there with Rafa Benitez—tomorrow’s likely something to look forward to for Valencia.
Stop if you’ve heard this before—now’s the time for Liverpool to kick things into gear, to really start to get ready for the season proper. Give the provisional first team an extended look, and we’ll finally come away feeling satisfied with a Liverpool match this preseason. In many ways that was supposed to be the trip to Norway, but again the club stuttered, and again we’re left hoping for signs of encouragement with little time remaining.
The biggest concerns are obviously in defense, where they’ve conceded an alarming number of goals against average opposition, and looked remarkably amateur no matter the personnel. Conceding three goals in five consecutive matches, preseason or otherwise, is a good indicator that vast improvements are needed. And as noted above, Saturday presents the biggest challenge in terms of talent that Liverpool will have faced thus far, meaning that, short of a 180-degree turnaround, Liverpool could be up against it at the back.
It’ll likely be a similar look in terms of personnel despite the struggles—Martin Skrtel suffered another injury towards the end of last week, and while Fabio Aurelio has apparently returned to training, there’s nothing new about any of the others that have spent most of the preseason on the sidelines or slowly returning from international duty.
So despite the fact that it’s the final match of the preseason, the name of the opposition and that it’s at Anfield, Liverpool still have plenty of questions left to answer. The summer additions are still getting comfortable, the midfield is clearly lacking the influence of its most talented names, the best performer is a wantaway, and the defense has looked like a disaster waiting to happen.