After defeating Dinamo Bucuresti 4-1 on aggregate, Athletic Club will shift back into preseason friendly mode. On Saturday they will take on Liverpool in Dublin, Ireland in a match organized by New Balance. While both clubs will be missing some key players, the contest should still be very competitive and entertaining. Fans of both clubs have flown to Ireland for this special event and there is certainly a lot to be excited about.
This will be the first ever friendly between Athletic Club and Liverpool, although it should be noted that the pair have played in four competitive matches in the past. It hasn’t been outwardly stated, but this game is very much something that was organized by New Balance to promoted two of their most storied clubs of which they now provide kits. That being said, this game does come at a very peculiar time. Athletic just saw off Dinamo Bucuresti in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, while this will be Liverpool’s last friendly before starting their Premier League campaign next weekend.
As expected, Kuko Ziganda decided to leave some of his stars behind after a tough match Thursday night against Dinamo. Aymeric Laporte, Markel Susaeta, Raul Garcia, Aritz Aduriz, and Iker Muniain were all left out of the squad for this one. Ander Iturraspe also misses out due to a muscle injury in his left leg. His return date is still dependent upon his daily recovery. Despite these vital players being left out, Ziganda will still be able to field a strong side that will be looking to entertain fans against one of the strongest teams in England.
With this being Liverpool’s last friendly before kicking off the Premier League against Watford next weekend, Jurgen Klopp is expected to field a very dangerous side as he looks to put the finishing touches on his squad. Still, he also left out some heavy hitters with Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturbridge, and Jordan Henderson not making the trip. Adam Lallana will also miss the game due to an ongoing injury. Regardless, Klopp can still put together a deadly team. Players like Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and new signing Mohammad Salah will all be in attendance.
Liverpool will be the strongest team that Athletic will face all preseason. The Reds are currently competing in the Champions League and have grown a lot under Jurgen Klopp. This will be the perfect opportunity for Kuko Ziganda to give fringe players the chance to show why they deserve to stay in the team. Players like Kike Sola and Asier Villalibre are still unsure of what their futures hold, while youngsters Inigo Cordoba and Unai Nunez are waiting to find out if they will stay with the first team. This game will be huge for all four of them and it would be shocking if they all did not feature for at least one half of the match.
With this being a friendly match it is extremely difficult to predict how anything will play out. Both sides will be looking for a big win to encourage and excite the fans, but the result is not what matters. The coaches want to see their players put in a good performance and show what they have learned in their daily training sessions. The fact that this game is taking place in Dublin, Ireland is just another special piece. Fans from both sides will be traveling to see this one and it is sure to be an exciting encounter. Regardless of who wins or who you are cheering for, this is a game that you won’t want to miss.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Inigo Lekue, Eneko Boveda, Unai Nunez, Enric Saborit, Mikel San Jose, Mikel Rico, Inigo Cordoba, Ager Aketxe, Iñaki Williams, Kike Sola