Joe Allen Needs a Strong Performance for Liverpool vs. Thailand

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Joe Allen Needs a Strong Performance for Liverpool vs. Thailand
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Keeping his eye on the ball: Allen in action during preseason, where he needs to impress to regain his place in the Reds' midfield next season

Liverpool have arrived in Bangkok for what is the final leg of their preseason tour of the Far East and Australia, and midfielder Joe Allen will be desperate to produce a dominant display against Thailand at the Rajamangala National stadium on Sunday.

The Wales international has not featured for Brendan Rodgers’ side in a competitive match since they  lost 3-1 to relegation-threatened Southampton at St Mary’s on March 16.

Four days later the club announced that the 23-year-old would miss the rest of the season to have surgery on a long-standing shoulder problem that had been affecting the holding player for most of that year.

The following month Allen told the Independent that the operation had been a success, before confidently predicting: “Next season I can perform a lot better.

"Unfortunately this season's a write-off in regards to the injury but the plan is, and I've got a bit of time, to make sure it's right over the summer break in time for preseason.

"It's difficult to say [whether the injury affected my game]-I don't want to use it as an excuse, that's for sure. But I'd like to see how it is once it's fixed and I'd like to think it's going to help me massively.

"I'm excited and looking forward to being 100 percent fit. These things can often play on your mind. Hopefully this will bring out the best in me."

Luckily for both the club and the player himself, the medical staff’s predictions for a return date were  spot on, and the Welshman was fit and raring to go for the start of the Reds' preseason programme that began with a trip to League One Preston North End earlier this month.

The warm-ups have continued on the club’s recent tour of Asia, with Allen starting on the subs bench for the 2-0 win over an Indonesian XI last Saturday, before playing the first 72 minutes of Wednesday’s victory by the same score-line over Melbourne Victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Allen created Liverpool’s opening goal for captain Steven Gerrard following a decent run and clever pass, and his fellow midfielder took advantage of the opportunity presented to him on a plate.

However, depending on just where Rodgers feels his inspirational skipper can cause most damage next season-and that may need to wait until the future of want-away forward Luis Suarez is sorted out in the coming weeks-Allen may be competing with Luca Leiva for the remaining midfield position for the upcoming campaign.

And if Rodgers were picking his starting lineup now for Liverpool’s opening Premier League fixture against Stoke City at Anfield on Aug 17, the odds are that Allen’s name would not be amongst the 11 selected by the Northern Irishman.

On present form, Rodgers would more likely go with the favoured partnership of Gerrard and Lucas in front of the back four. But were he to move the England captain further forward into a more attacking role, then a position could open up for Allen.

For that to happen Allen must continue to prove his has fully recovered from his shoulder surgery, starting in the Thai capital on Sunday, and then in the Reds’ remaining preseason games against Olympiacos, Valerenga and Celtic.

Eye-catching performances in those warm-up fixtures could prove the difference between Allen getting a start against the Potters in three weeks’ time, and being told that he is a substitute.

The next 10 months already look like being a make-or-break campaign for the young Welshman, especially in light of his injury-interrupted debut season on Merseyside.

Meanwhile, his manager’s eye-catching comments just two months ago have also raised the stakes for the ball-playing water carrier. Rodgers worked with Allen during their time together at Swansea City and likened his new charge to a Welsh version of Barcelona and Spain’s Xavi Hernandez.

“I would have paid many millions more for this kid. He’s unique in that he’s a British player who is incredible on the ball,” claimed Rodgers in the Daily Star last October.

“His body work is very intelligent and for a 22-year-old it’s frightening. He’s incredible.

“I think the Liverpool supporters enjoy watching this kid play football.

“He is 5ft 6ins but in terms of being a footballer he is 7ft 6ins. He’s absolutely immense. His courage in getting on the ball, how he reads the game and his football intelligence is outstanding.

“We paid £15 million for him and I said that very quickly that price would double and people probably laughed at me.

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“But he will play here for many years and the supporters will love this kid.”

So it is not just the player who has a lot riding on the upcoming 2013/14 season, but also the man who persuaded the club’s American owners to fork out £15m and make Allen the most expensive footballer in Welsh history.

So starting in Bangkok on Sunday, Allen must produce his A-game, and continue to shine in the lead-up to the new English campaign.

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