Toronto vs. Liverpool: Why All Eyes Will Be on Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool will take to the field for the first time under Brendan Rodgers on Saturday as they start their preseason competition with a match against Toronto in the first leg of their U.S. tour.
Whilst not all of the squad are yet present and training with the Reds as they recover from international tournaments or get ready to partake in the Olympics, plenty of players will be expected to get a run out.
Returning loan players, youngsters from the academy and several first team big-name players will be on show.
Here are five reasons, though, why all eyes will be on the manager, Rodgers, and not on the players for once.
New Tactical System for the Reds
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Liverpool played mainly a 4-4-2 last season, with a few 4-2-3-1s thrown in for good measure.
Under Brendan Rodgers—whilst the latter remains a possibility—it is more likely that Liverpool will operate with a more orthodox 4-3-3 system.
Plenty of Reds fans have, for several years, believed this to be the system which best suited the players at the team's disposal; now it appears they might get the chance to see it in action on a regular basis.
Rodgers' tactics and formations are a much talked-about subject. Seeing Liverpool line-up in a 4-3-3 for the first game will be an indication of if the season will progress along the same lines.
Pass and Press
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After the formation itself, the two areas of Liverpool's tactics which will be getting the biggest overhaul are the ball retention and off-the-ball defending from the front.
Fans are eager to see the new possession-based play from Liverpool in action—though how much this will be in evidence after just half a dozen training sessions is up for debate.
Even so, the players have spoken of the effects in training already, so it wouldn't be out of the question to see an improvement in patient build-up play from the off.
In addition, and perhaps more importantly to continue to build fitness in preseason, fans are waiting to see which players—which attacking third players, specifically—take to the task of defending quickly and aggressively from the front.
The Kids Will Get a Chance
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Liverpool have flown out to their tour of the U.S. and Canada with several youngsters in tow—both to make up the numbers in the absence of some regular first-teamers and hopefully to see them get a chance to stake a claim for first-team football in the future.
Ryan McLaughlin, Jack Robinson, Adam Morgan and Peter Gulacsi are amongst those who are hoping to see some minutes on the field for the first team, while returning loan forward Dani Pacheco is in a similar position.
Rodgers has spoken words to the effect of "if they're good enough, they're old enough" already, so it will be interesting to see how many of the youngsters get a run out on tour.
New Signing Fabio Borini Could Be Joined by Others
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It's not just on the pitch where Brendan Rodgers will be kept busy, but off it too, as he looks to bring in further new faces to revamp the Liverpool squad in his own image.
Italian forward Fabio Borini became Rodgers' first signing at Liverpool this summer, but others will surely soon follow.
How Borini is utilized in the team will give us a clue as to which other types of players the boss will be looking to bring in.
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While there will still likely be a few references to the usual "the emphasis is on building players' fitness," and similar preseason clichéd statements, Brendan Rodgers has been refreshingly honest in his assessment of the Liverpool squad to date.
After the first game against Toronto, Liverpool fans will be expecting and hoping to hear him give an opinion on which players have taken well to training, how he felt the team interpreted his instructions, and perhaps even which players have caught his eye in the match.
The sweltering temperatures, double-session training schedule and the fact that no player will play for more than half a game to start means it is unlikely to be a fast, frenetic opening to Rodgers' tenure—but then, that's not what he's aiming for anyway.
Sustained pressure, controlling the tempo of the game and an intelligence in the final third will all be key, and Liverpool will be hoping to hear Rodgers talk about all three, and much more, after his first game in charge.