The regime at Liverpool may be looking firmly to the future, but on Sunday the fans on the Kop will allow themselves to appreciate a glorious part of the club’s recent past.
Sami Hyypia returns to Anfield with his Bayer Leverkusen team to face the club he served for ten years with such great distinction and the big Finn will be afforded a hero’s welcome. Supporters will celebrate the decade he spent at the club, where he won every major trophy apart from the one that has eluded Liverpool for 22 years – the Premier League.
Signed by Gerard Houllier in 1999 for just £2.5million, Hyypia was a steal for Liverpool and his transfer may be a lesson to all connected with the Merseysiders as Brendan Rodgers begins what he is calling his ‘journey’ at Anfield, a journey that has its destination set on the Premier League crown.
Rodgers has made a big deal about making Anfield a fortress, something that it wasn’t last season as the Reds limped to just six home wins all year.
That is a long, long way off, but some astute purchases like the one Houllier made 13 years ago will certainly help, especially with owners Fenway Sports Group lacking the financial muscle of many of the top sides it hopes to compete with.
It means FSG are playing the long game, appointing a bright young coach who seems to be intent on buying young talent. Fabio Borini and Joe Allen, singed from Roma and Swansea respectively, are both just 22-years-old and as Rodgers shifts out the old guard (Maxi, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy have all moved on) it is clear that this Liverpool revolution is going to take time.
Thursday night’s 3-0 win over FC Gomel in the Europa League qualifying round gave an early indication of what Liverpool fans can expect from Rodgers. Yes, the opposition was mediocre at best but Liverpool are not fully fit and there were a few promising early signs, and it was certainly more positive than anything served up last season.
Leverkusen represent the final pre-season warm-up of the summer for the Reds, who begin the Premier League campaign with a trip to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion next weekend. Liverpool are 11/10 favourites with bwin to round off pre-season with a win, with the Germans at 21/10 and the draw at 11/5 and I like the look of the home side in this one.
Rodgers has made a big deal about making Anfield a fortress, something that it wasn’t last season as the Reds limped to just six home wins all year. He will know winning becomes a habit and that two home wins from two going into the new campaign can only help.
Hyypia had a great run after taking over as caretaker in April, winning five and drawing two of his seven Bundesliga matches, and has a talented squad to choose from, including German starlet Andre Schurrle.
How he fares now he has been given the job on a full time basis remains to be seen, but pre-season has been erratic in terms of results and he might be on the end of another loss at Anfield.
Leverkusen have kept just one clean sheet in pre-season and were poor on the road against teams in the top half of the Bundesliga last year, posting a 1-3-4 record. A few weeks behind Liverpool in terms of their fitness schedule, if the Reds play at the same tempo as Thursday night it might be too much for Hyypia’s men to cope with.
Recommended bet: Liverpool to beat Bayer Leverkusen @ 11/10
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