Who will play for Liverpool and AC Milan in their international soccer friendly Saturday at Bank of America Stadium?
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers isn’t saying. And his counterpart at Milan, Filippo Inzaghi, was only slightly less circumspect during Friday news conferences before their teams’ training sessions on the stadium’s football-turned-soccer field.
Rodgers, whose team finished second in last season’s English Premier League, said “big names” would be in his lineup. He just wouldn’t say who they’d be.
“They’re all big names,” said Rodgers. “You have to be a big player and have a big personality to play for Liverpool. But we’ll be strong (Saturday) and that will hopefully be the case for every game this season.”
Most of Liverpool’s key players have played in their two previous games in the International Champions Cup, victories against Manchester City in New York on Wednesday and Olympiacos on Sunday. A victory against Milan (0-2) will put the Reds in the tournament final Monday in Miami.
So it’s a good bet that players like midfielders Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson and strikers Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge will see playing time as Liverpool continues to prepare for its EPL opener Aug. 17 against Southampton. And after a three-year absence, Liverpool will also play in Europe’s Champions League, which adds several more games on to their 38-game EPL season.
“The objective is same (Saturday),” said Rodgers. “We need to get the players as fit as possible for the first game of the season. We’re focusing on Saturday’s game and potentially Monday. But we have to look at all our players and how to use them. Every member of our squad will be vital to us this season. We’ll never have an under-strengthed team. But we need to get them to match fitness and that’s the idea over the course of hopefully these two games.”
Inzaghi, a former Milan star who is in his first season as the Rossoneri’s coach, is still figuring out his roster. He said star forward Mario Ballotelli will play against Liverpool, as will goalkeeper Christian Abatti. But others, such as Japanese international Keisuke Honda, will be game-time decisions.
Milan, like Liverpool a traditional European power, finished eighth in Italy’s Serie A last season. Inazghi knows his task of bringing the franchise back to its former glory – Milan has 18 Serie A and seven Champions League titles – is a challenging one.
“We have to grow, we have to play,” said Inzaghi through an interpreter. “It’s difficult to play a team like Liverpool. They’re ahead of us now. But I expect us to do better, to have more possession of the ball, to play a better game.”
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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