For Brendan Rogers, a trip to Deepdale to take on Preston North End in Liverpool’s first pre-season friendly of the summer will be like a beacon of light amid the buck-toothed, want-away cloud that is Luis Suarez, who as we speak is still probably talking to anyone who will listen about how he wants to move to Arsenal, or Real Madrid, or Chelsea, or basically anywhere that will take him.
The future of Suarez has become one long, sorry, moany, boring saga for everyone else – is there any chance he might shut up, just for a couple of days? – but for Rodgers and Liverpool, what happens in the next few weeks will shape their season.
The Uruguayan is that vital to the Liverpool cause they seem willing to keep him at any cost no matter what his behaviour – 30 goals last season tell you all you need to know – and given their standing well below the elite of English football, they can ill-afford to lose a world class talent, no matter how much of an idiot he is.
So whatever happens at Deepdale, the bigger picture is the Reds’ No.7 and Rodgers will be hoping that Fenway Sports Group stand firm, otherwise it is hard to see how Liverpool can realistically improve on last year’s seventh place finish.
Suarez is not going to play at Preston as he is still on holiday after the Confederations Cup, and with Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge also injured it could be that Liverpool are worth opposing at Preston.
The Reds are expectedly 1/2 favourites, with Preston at 9/2, but the draw appeals here at 14/5.
Liverpool will hand debuts to new signings Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Simon Mignolet (Sunderland) Kolo Toure (Manchester City) and Luis Alberto (Sevilla) and with youngsters expected to play, not to mention the rusty Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling, this will be an understrength and undercooked Reds side.
North End boss Simon Grayson is a promotion expert in the lower divisions and the League One outfit will be hoping for a top six push after several disappointing terms in the third tier. The signing of veteran Kevin Davies, who seems to be turning his career into some sort of Nat Lofthouse tribute act, will help, and he has enough about him to still cause the Liverpool back four problems.
And at a decent looking price, the draw at 14/5 looks like a decent enough shout.