Friday, July 29, 2016

ICC Tournament: Liverpool vs. AC Milan


Following this summer’s movie trends to remake the classics, this matchup also attempts to remake a Champions League classic. Only one team is a little rusty and the other team is unrecognizable. And the rusty team lost their friendly midweek, whereas the unrecognizable team surprisingly won (if only on penalties.) But the point is, like most remakes, this isn’t going to be a reprise of Istanbul or Athens. It’s a warmup match for a couple of teams who have been underperforming and only have a few weeks to find their footing before the real games start. So if you like your Liverpool a little rusty and your AC Milan unrecognizable, grab your popcorn and prepare to enjoy. But if you prefer the classics, just know that this match won’t be one of them.

Second friendly of the summer and we already have a trophy. Does that count as a carry-on?

Jürgen Klopp started at Liverpool in October of this past season and his team finished a disappointing eighth in the Premier League. Which is still surprising, because anyone who can do this and also make Borussia Dortmund great seems like he could do just about anything. I’ll blame Claudio Ranieri. He messed everything up. But certainly one would expect the Reds to improve their standing this season.

Liverpool has seen plenty of action in the transfer market this summer, and Klopp has brought many of these new players with to California. Balotelli is not one of them, as being a former Milan player, he, too, is completely stuck in the transfer market. But for the match against Chelsea, Klopp started Karius; Randall, Klavan, Lovren, Moreno; Stewart, Ejaria, Grujic; Mané, Coutinho;  and Firmino. Substitutes used were: Henderson, Arnold, Brannagan, Milner, Wisdom, Lallana, Markovic, Ojo, and Ings.

No, Cesc, they're called The Reds. You're not supposed to get a red. It's friendly, for heaven's sake.

As for injuries, Grujic suffered a head injury vs. Chelsea, but it appears he will be available for our match. Whereas goalkeeper Karius was not as lucky, having broken his hand on Wednesday. There are rumors that Alex Manninger will start in goal for our match, which would be so fabulous. The Austrian keeper played in Serie A, most notably four years at Juventus, where his crazed eyes and intense facial expressions were both beloved and distracting. As for the rest of the squad, since the ex-Barca (read dirty, whiny cheater) Cesc Fabregas will not be facing off against them, all Liverpool players, particularly Klavan, have agreed to play.

That's a happy face.

Milan may have finished seventh in Serie A, but they have seen virtually no action this transfer window, having left both of their massive signings (Lapadula and Vangioni) at home, along with their highest scorer of last season (Bacca) and their biggest Euro star (De Sciglio.) Menez has been sent back to Europe, as he has a medical scheduled with Bordeaux on Monday. So with a tired cast, and having spent their first several days in Chicago, it’s hard to see them being up to par with a squad who have been training in the area (and time zone) since their arrival. But then again, their penalty win over Bayern did see them awarded a trophy, (really, ICC?) and trophies do boost one’s self-image.

Unfortunately, trophies do not boost one’s skills, judgment, or stamina, all of which are things Milan could have used in the match versus Bayern. The goals were lovely, but as much credit to Bayern defensive lapses as anything else. But those lapses were nothing compared to the lapses Milan committed, with Vergara particularly winning fans over by conceding a stupid penalty. Poli was designated “in ritardo” by La Gazzetta dello Sport, which for English speaking fans, sounds worse than the typically used phrase “flop of the match.” Montella’s got a lot of work to do to convince the fans who actually watch the matches and don’t simply check the final score.

Ooh, and we'll get to see the hideous new third kits, too. #BetterThanLastYear

Speaking of the new coach, against Bayern, he lined up Donnarumma; Abate, Paletta, Romagnoli, Antonelli, Poli, Montolivo, Bertolacci; Suso, Niang, and Bonaventura. It’s highly likely that he’ll try Kucka, of the legendary cucchiaio penalty, in place of poor Poli. The press are reporting that he might also start Luiz Adriano up front in place of Niang, which would certainly help Liverpool. The only thing I feel sure of is that if Donnarumma is in goal and it comes to penalties, I like our chances. Other than that, Montella’s “new” possession-based football only resulted in 38% possession, which is far less than we averaged under our attacking-based coach last season.

I’m not necessarily a fan of movies that are remade. I’m absolutely not a fan of the audaciously ridiculous rumors the press are sharing today about sale of the club. (Silvio, after the Mr. Bee deal, why didn’t you ask for proof of funds back in April?) I’m not even a fan of ridiculously overhyped American friendlies that award trophies, complete with commentators who can’t even say “Giacomo” properly. But with a heart that bleeds red and black, and a game in my own time zone for once in my life, I will be watching every second of this match. Even if I will be looking for Inzaghi the whole time to come on and save us. Just like I don’t need every movie to end happily, I’m okay with any result. And just like any movie, where I expect good acting and screenwriting, I just want to see some improvement in Milan’s play. It’s not going to be a classic, but maybe it will at least give me something to smile about.


This post inspired by the music of Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Rescue”


International Champions Cup
Liverpool FC vs. AC Milan
Saturday, August 30 • 10pm EDT
This match will be shown on ESPN2 in the U.S.