Despite the Premier League season still having a month or so left for this campaign, Liverpool's preparations for an assault on the top four next year are already well underway, with one of the main facets of the club's summer set to be a trip to Australia and Thailand on a preseason tour.
Last year, with newly appointed boss Brendan Rodgers at the helm, Liverpool headed to the U.S. and Canada for a three-match visit while they continued their fitness work and had the manager assess his new players.
This time round it will be an altogether longer trip for the Reds, as they head to Australia for the first time ever, before making their way to Thailand as well.
Here are all the details on the Reds' summer visits...
Liverpool FC confirm they will play in Australia on July 24 for the first time ever youtube.com/watch?v=Q1oEj_… Please Retweet— LFC Australia & NZ (@LFCANZ) April 2, 2013
Liverpool are expected to play three fixtures while on tour, one of which has yet to be named.
The Reds will play in Melbourne on July 24, against Australian A-League side Melbourne Victory. Perhaps their most recognised name in the current squad is Archie Thompson, a former Australia international striker who gained fame by scoring a record 13 goals in a single international fixture, when his nation trounced American Samoa 31-0.
Following that match, Liverpool will head off once more to Thailand, where they play a game in Bangkok on July 28.
It is likely that the team will also play a third fixture while away on tour, though neither the date nor the opposition have been confirmed at present.
Seniors to Travel
Judging by the promotional videos, interviews and general excitement, fans in Australia and Thailand can expect a full senior squad to head away on the tour. Of course, as a preseason event, it is likely that some of the most promising youngsters will also get to travel, for increased numbers in training and to see how they cope in a first-team environment.
In summer of 2012, the likes of Ryan McLaughlin, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Conor Coady, Jordan Ibe and Brad Smith all joined the senior players on the U.S. tour.
A page dedicated to the current first-team players has been put up on the tour website—which will presumably be updated nearer the time to reflect any potential incoming or outgoing transfers, with the window opening some time before the Reds head South.
There is only one major international tournament this summer, the Confederations Cup, which means that there is the possibility of some Reds being involved in action for their nations.
Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Leiva (Brazil), Sebastian Coates and Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Fabio Borini (Italy) and Pepe Reina (Spain) all stand some chance of being involved, though not all are regulars at present in their respective international squads.
The Confederations Cup ends on June 30, which would mean around three weeks' rest for the players before joining up with the team to fly to Australia.
For second-choice goalkeeper Brad Jones, it will be a return to his home country when the Reds head to Australia; Jones was born in Perth and was capped three times for his nation at international level.
Buildup and Reaction
As always, Liverpool have gone all-out to advertise their presence on the tour, with a website, promotional videos and interviews all serving to heighten the sense of looking forward to the summer.
The Reds were last in Thailand in 2009, when thousands of adoring fans bedecked the surroundings of their training sessions, as well as matches, in red flags, red scarves and red shirts. The club's Managing Director, Ian Ayre, spoke about the impending return to the country:
Our last visit to Thailand was during the pre-season tour in 2009, when we received such a warm welcome from our fans. We first went to Thailand in 2001 and this will be our fourth visit to the country, which we feel demonstrates our commitment to our fans in Thailand. Since our last visit, we have created strategic partnerships to maintain the club's presence in the region.
It will not only be players who head away on the tour, as Liverpool are expected to bring a host of community employees, Liverpool FC Foundation staff, corporate partners and other support staff with them.
Aims of the Tour
As always with any preseason tour, the first primary aim is to assess and improve the fitness of the players after a month or more away from regular training sessions during the summer. Brendan Rodgers will also have an opportunity to look at any new recruits, take a closer look at some of the club's youngsters and begin to build his plan of attack on the new Premier League campaign.
The boss has spoken to LFCtour.com about his hopes for the trip:
One of our staff members has just done a 'reccy' and he came back and talked about the humidity and heat [in Thailand]. We've got a great sports science and medical team that will look to prepare the players as well as they possibly can for that. We know the conditions will be difficult, but we're there to work, so we'll get our work done.
[Preseason is] very important, especially for us this year - the landscape is different for us. We'll arrive into pre-season being in a much better position than what we were in last [summer]. There was a new manager coming in, we had to cut certain areas of the squad, it was a difficult window for us in the summer and then we went into the beginning of the season and the first six months in a difficult position. It gives you the opportunity to try new ideas, develop and improve the work you've been developing over the course of the season and then really prepare the mindset for what's ahead going into the new season. It allows us to rubberstamp our objectives and then hopefully come the start of the season, we'll be ready.
As well as the on-field issues, Liverpool will again take the chance to strengthen their links with supporters the world over with a series of club initiatives including local fans and businesses. They will likely hold some sessions for youngsters to take part in, and the players themselves will visit a variety of locations to lend their presence to increasing the Liverpool FC global brand.
It promises to be a very exciting and busy summer for Liverpool, which the trip to Australia and Thailand will be a huge part of.