In theatre, there is a saying that goes along the lines of “Bad rehearsal, great first night”. On the basis of that principle, should Liverpool continue to show the form they have been in pre-season they can surely look forward to an excellent display next Friday against Norwich City. So far they have looked laboured in losing to Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla and, most recently, in a showpiece against Napoli in Edinburgh, where the Italian side ran out 3-0 winners. Of course, you can lose every friendly game you play before the season kicks off, as long as you show up when league points and cup progression are on the line.
This evening, the Reds will be in action at Switzerland’s Stade de Geneve, in the shadow of Mont Blanc. They will be hoping that (WARNING: laboured metaphor ahead) their performance doesn’t leave it looking as though there is a mountain to climb before the Premier League season kicks off. They will also be reinforced by the return to availability of goalkeeper Allison and striker Robert Firmino, who have been in Copa America action with Brazil. Mo Salah, whose Egypt side were early eliminees from the Africa Cup of Nations, could also play a part, with only Sadio Mane from their usual first XI still to report back for full training.
Another significant challenge for the Reds
To put Liverpool’s pre-season travails in perspective, no-one can possibly accuse them of giving themselves an easy ride with the opponents they have chosen for friendly encounters. Dortmund went exceptionally close to overturning Bayern’s dominance in Germany last season, while Sevilla are perpetual awkward opponents in Europe’s top competitions. Napoli, meanwhile, are the best side in Italy if you don’t count Juventus, who operate on another plane from the rest of Serie A. Lyon are a similarly challenging opponent – their gifted attacking corps may have been slightly weakened by the departure of Nabil Fekir, but the addition of exciting Brazilian Jean Lucas has offered more solidity.
Add to that the fact that Lyon have been able to give Moussa Dembele, secured last August from Celtic, a full pre-season, and they’re every bit as dangerous as any opponent Liverpool have faced so far this summer. William Hill have an intriguing price of 12/1 on Dembele and Liverpool’s Divock Origi to score in this match, and that’s worth a look. The Reds’ Belgian striker is often talked down for his tendency to drift out of games, but last season’s Champions League final showed he only needs one chance to score a goal. With Firmino and Salah likely to be eased back in, Origi is a good bet to strike tonight.
A competitive feel to a preseason game
Both of these sides are just nine days away from their opening games of a new season, so while this match remains a friendly, the importance of getting their lines right and building some momentum won’t be lost on anyone. The Reds came within a point of Manchester City in 2018/19, and while Lyon were further back from oil-rich Paris St Germain, they too will be hoping to reel in a more moneyed opponent over the coming season. Therefore, this match is likely to see two sides taking their preparation seriously – which should improve the game as a spectacle.
Unlike their opponents tonight, Lyon have picked up a win in one of their prestige friendlies, beating Arsenal 2-1 at the weekend with Dembele getting on the scoresheet twice. However, ‘Pool are strengthened by the return of some key players for this evening’s game, which gives this game a very even feel. It’s worth looking to punt on the draw; both sides have clear issues to iron out, but retain plenty of quality, and so Betway’s 15/4 on the game finishing even with both teams scoring looks like a reasonable price.
Fine-tuning more important than fine skill
As already noted, the importance of pre-season performance – and particularly results – is often exaggerated by pundits. Manchester City are unlikely to dwell on this summer’s penalty defeat by Wolves once they’re playing in front of full stadia and the games actually mean something. Equally, for both Liverpool and Lyon, this game is likely to be seen in the light of honing fitness, trying out different combinations, and avoiding injury. Next Friday, against Norwich and Monaco respectively, they’ll worry about being at 100% of their powers. Tonight, that’s not what matters.
As such, we wouldn’t expect a high-scoring game here. Both teams come into the match likely to field defences that are at, or close to, full strength. It’s easier to break things down than to build them, particularly when Liverpool’s key attackers just need minutes in their legs. At Unibet, you can get odds of 39/20 on there being fewer than 2.5 goals in this game. That seems like a very sensible bet to make given the low stakes and competing priorities in this game.
Bets of the Day
Draw and BTTS, (Betway 15/4); Fewer than 2.5 goals in game (Unibet, 39/20); Both Origi and Dembele to score (William Hill, 12/1)