Would Barcelona's decision to rest top guns before EPL change the game for Liverpool?
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, England
Key Stat: Rather unusually, the key stat here is that this will be Barcelona's third game in less than a week, and their players have travelled from Dublin to Sweden and back to London. Even those are short trips, never underestimate the exhausting effect of air travel. Liverpool have had a week to get over their travel from California back to the UK, and that extra recovery time will be vital here. Expect Klopp's fresher legs to count.
Expert Verdict: The average age of this Barcelona side would certainly be under 23 should Jose Enrique rest the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Jeremy Mathieu, and that inexperience - even in a friendly match - could prove costly in what is expected to be a well-attended Wembley Stadium.
With the English Premier League season being a week or so away, Jurgen Klopp will want his prime starting eleven to get some quality game time under their belts, and where better to start than this fixture. It won't be anticipated by the bookmakers, but a Liverpool win looks the most likely outcome here.
This will be Jurgen Klopp,s first full season in charge at Liverpool, and so he is finally managing to get his blueprint in place at the Reds. He has never been afraid to innovate (trialling James Milner at left back for instance) or blood youngsters (Trent Alexander-Arnold is a highly-rated Academy product), and the starting line-ups he has been selecting in the ICC so far have been very attacking.
Simon Mignolet (GK), Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Milner, Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan (DEF), Jordan Henderson, Gigi Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane, Phillipe Coutinho (MID), Roberto Firmino (ATT).
Going against the grain of the rest of the managers in the International Champions Cup, Jose Enrique has decided to field the exact same starting line-up in both of his side’s matches thus far, which suggests he is wanting to win this competition while giving his preferred eleven some much needed game time. That means that Lionel Messi is likely to start here.
Joel Masip (GK), Camara, Aleix Vidal, Jose Martinez, Jeremy Mathieu (DEF), Arda Turan, Denis Suarez, Sergi Roberto (MID), Lionel Messi, Munir El Haddadi, Luis Suarez (ATT).
There has been a mix of results when these two teams have locked horns in the past, with Liverpool just about shading their seven encounters to date.
The Reds have picked up three victories, Barcelona two and there have been a trio of stalemates. The most recent pair of fixtures in the 2007 Champions League were shared: Liverpool winning 2-1 at the Nou Camp and Barca returning the favour at Anfield 1-0.
Given that this will be Barcelona’s second match in three days it is possible that Jose Enrique will make changes to his side – even though he has been reluctant to do so in the ICC thus far, and that will certainly play into Liverpool’s hands.
Jurgen Klopp has experimented in one sense this tournament, fielding a number of youngsters and trying the midfielder James Milner at left back, but in attacking positions he has stuck with his tried and tested combinations.
As such, we can expect goals at both ends here in what is likely to be a high scoring contest. Perhaps Liverpool, who have had a week’s break from action, will shade it if Enrique does decide to rest key players.
It always feels slightly counter-intuitive betting against Barcelona in any given match, but the extra three days worth of rest that Liverpool have enjoyed could be all important. Will Jose Enrique play Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in what would be their third game in the space of a week? It seems unlikely at this stage of pre-season.
Liverpool are well rested and have the luxury of a number of attacking options at their disposal. As a consequence, they should have too much for the youthful Barca side that Enrique is likely to start with.
The International Champions Cup has been a tournament littered with high-scoring clashes, and this looks set to add to the list. Barcelona have scored seven goals in two games while conceding three, whereas Liverpool could have scored five or six against AC Milan but for some last ditch defending and poor finishing. Both teams to score and/or over 2.5 goals looks the smart investment here.