Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the pre-season friendly encounter between Tranmere Rovers
at Prenton Park. This is the first outing of the summer programme for both sides, with the visitors gearing up for a potential Premier League title challenge and the home side aiming to return to the English Football League following a current three-year absence.
The last we saw of Liverpool they were running out against Sydney FC in an end-of-season friendly, used as a chance to further boost their profile Down Under. That was just 50 days ago, with the players already a week into their training regime and now looking to make an impression in this first official run-out. Pre-season is no longer simply about gaining fitness - it is about forcing your way into the manager's thoughts ahead of a gruelling 10 months or so.
Tranmere will themselves be challenging for top spot in their division, with the reward at the end of it more than just a trophy - a place in the English Football League, too, having slipped out of League Two a few years back. They came agonisingly close to returning to where they feel they belong a couple of months back, only to lose to Forest Green Rovers in the National League playoff final at Wembley Stadium. Will they be celebrating come next May?
LIVERPOOL TEAM NEWS!
FIRST-HALF XI: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lucas, Milner, Henderson, Grujic, Wijnaldum, Ojo, Firmino, Sturridge
SECOND-HALF XI: Karius, Clyne, Gomez, Klavan, Flanagan, Stewart, Chirivella, Woodburn, Markovic, Kent, Solanke
Much like in this same fixture 12 months ago, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp
was always expected to change things around completely at the break. Two games in the space of three days means that he has a chance to get minutes under the belts of each of his eligible players, so we will see a different side in both halves. Plenty of debate to be had over which goalkeeper gets the nod permanently this coming season, but as things stand it is Simon Mignolet's to lose after taking back control of the gloves from 2016 summer signing Loris Karius.
We will see Karius from the off, while Trent Alexander-Arnold also starts fresh on the back of penning a new long-term deal at Anfield. Marko Grujic
and Seyi Ojo are the other youngsters included for the opening 45 minutes, each looking to lay down a marker in their attempts to be given more playing time in the 2017-18 campaign. Experienced heads elsewhere, though, including up top where Daniel Sturridge will start through the middle, presumably between Ojo and Roberto Firmino.
The second half will give us a chance to see Dominic Solanke in Liverpool colours for the first time, a couple of days on from officially completing his switch from Chelsea. The England Under-20s World Cup winner looks to have what it takes to make a mark at a top-four club, but as it so often the case that will not be at Stamford Bridge. The only other of the Reds' summer recruits to date, former Roma man Mohamed Salah, misses out due to immigration red tape, while Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho only returned to training this week.
TRANMERE ROVERS TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Davies; Buxton, McNulty, Sutton, Ridehalgh; Duggan, Harris, Hughes, Norburn; Cook, Norwood
SUBS BENCH: Jennings, Pilling, Clarke, Gumbs, Dunn, Solomon-Davies, Owusu (trialist), Mangan, Rokka
Tranmere boss Micky Mellon
has added four players to his squad during the off-season, including the arrival of Ollie Norburn who is handed his debut in midfield this evening. Jack Dunn was released by Liverpool earlier this summer after failing to make the grade at youth level, quickly being swept up by Rovers who clearly feel that he has something to offer lower down the footballing pyramid. He starts this one on the bench but will play a part at some point.
George Waring and James Alabi are the other two new recruits snapped up by Mellon, the latter of whom joined from Chester earlier this week, but both are nowhere to be seen in the matchday squad. Either way, a chance for the other two players to impress in this first summer friendly, with a long road to come before the league season gets up and running. Liverpool will make XI changes at the interval, while the hosts will no doubt make a few.
Liverpool's club-record purchase Mohamed Salah - the price tag is up for debate, but most have it slightly higher than the fee handed over for Andy Carroll - is not included in the squad tonight due to immigration red tape. Dominic Solanke is the only other new recruit signed so far and he will be given a 45-minute run out on his debut. No Sadio Mane for the Reds just yet due to an injury picked up last term, but skipper Jordan Henderson is back after missing the last three months of 2016-17.
A chance for Tranmere Rovers to test themselves against one of the best sides in the country this evening, then, as they look to hit the ground running ahead of a campaign that they hope will end with promotion to the EFL. They are now under the management of experienced boss Micky Mellon
, who joined after departing Shrewsbury Town last October, returning to a team that he made more than 200 appearances for during his playing days.
The margin between promotion and also-rans is fine in any division, but it was particularly harsh to see Rovers miss out last term. Mellon guided them to second place in the table, four points off champions Lincoln City, though that was not enough to earn automatic promotion as only one team receives that honour. Tranmere therefore had to do it the hard way via the playoffs, overcoming one hurdle but then falling short against Forest Green in an entertaining final that saw a couple of world-class strikes.
Most bookies have Tranmere down as favourites to earn promotion as champions this coming season, having come so close in Mellon's first campaign at the Prenton Park helm, with Dagenham & Redbridge, Eastleigh, Hartlepool and Wrexham expected to be their biggest rivals. If last season is anything to go by then you would expect the Merseyside outfit to quickly pick themselves back up; nine wins from their final 11 regular-season fixtures, scoring 28 and conceding eight in that time, offering hope that they can get over the line this time around.
This is the trickiest of Tranmere's pre-season fixtures, it is fair to say, as they follow this up with games against Cammell Laird, Ashton United, Fleetwood Town and Bury in the next few weeks. They then get the real business under way with a trip to Torquay in early August, before quickfire home games against Woking and Sutton United in the opening week of the season. A quick start could be vital to their hopes of promotion at the third attempt.
The target for Liverpool this season is not quite as clear, meanwhile, as a Premier League title challenge may be just out of their reach after fading away badly in the second half of the previous campaign. Klopp guided the Reds to two finals in his first season at the helm and, while silverware has so far eluded him, the German guided his men to fourth last time out to secure Champions League football for just the second time in eight years.
After such a promising first half to the season, an eventual fourth-placed finish and zero silverware made it seem like a disappointing campaign. While it was not an overwhelming success, it can still be looked back on as a big positive as long as the club build on the success and seriously push on. A trophy will be required for Klopp if he is to keep the feel-good factor well and truly alive in the red half of Merseyside, while the Champions League provides an added bonus.
A truly dismal start to 2017 cost Liverpool any hopes of winning a trophy last term, exiting both domestic cup competitions in the space of a week and also falling massively off the title pace in the Premier League. Klopp ultimately did enough to keep his players on course, though, ending the season in fourth place above Arsenal and Manchester United - job done. Many felt that the mid-season wobble was down to Mane being absent, but with the arrival of Salah any injury problem should not be felt as harshly.
Klopp has described his new purchase as a "fantastic" addition to the squad - or, more accurately, the starting lineup. Salah will surely be handed a spot in that fluid forward line, with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane also included, while Philippe Coutinho provides the assists and goals from deep. It could be a case of Solanke being made to sit on and watch from the bench for large parts of the campaign, though he clearly feels that he is closer to the starting lineup at Anfield than he was at Stamford Bridge.
Salah will provide goals, assists and some added pace in behind, according to Klopp, which is hard to disagree with when considering he played a direct part in 26 goals for Roma last season. It is harsh to say that the Egypt international was a flop in his only other taste of English football; he was simply at the wrong club at the wrong time, quickly shipped out by Chelsea after barely being given a chance to prove his worth.
Liverpool saw their hopes of winning silverware in Jurgen Klopp
's first full campaign at the helm fade away at the turn of the year, slipping off the Premier League title pace and exiting both domestic cup competitions in the space of a month. It can still be considered a positive enough season for the German and his side, though, having finished in the top four - a real rarity these days - and provided themselves with a platform to push on in 2017-18.
Solanke and Salah are two solid additions to the squad, then, but what about those Klopp has missed out on? Well the Virgil van Dijk saga came to a pretty abrupt end last month when the Reds were forced into making a rather embarrassing public apology after being accused of illegally approaching the Dutchman. Some suggest that Klopp is not done there, however, and he will make a fresh approach - this time legally, you'd hope! - before the August 31 deadline. A centre-back is clearly next on the agenda.
Naby Keita is also a rumoured target for Liverpool, but RB Leipzig will not leave him leave at any cost. Should the Reds push ahead with their supposed £60m+ bid for the midfielder then it will be interesting to see if the German club stand strong on that stance. Either way, the Reds are certain to spend double their current £40m or so on more new signings before the summer is out - the sooner the better, really, as it can take time for many to bed in.
For now Klopp can only work with the group he has - a very talented group that is already stronger than last season thanks to those couple of signings. The Reds follow up this friendly encounter on home soil with another local match on Friday, this time against League One side Wigan Athletic. Then comes the jet-setting, taking them to Asia for games against Crystal Palace - that one a week today - and either West Bromwich Albion or Leicester City as part of the Premier League Asia Trophy.
Hertha Berlin, Bayern Munich and another high-profile opponent are all pencilled in, too, before rounding things off with a meeting against Athletic Bilbao. Eight games in all, beginning with this meeting with neighbours Tranmere. It is all in preparation for the start of the 2017-18 campaign, which sees them face Watford on August 12 and then Palace and Arsenal at Anfield before the opening month is out.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! These two sides have met on 22 previous occasions in competitive competition, with Liverpool winning 18 and losing three of those. The most recent encounter came in an FA Cup tie 16 years ago, but they also met almost a year ago to the day in a friendly here; Danny Ings netting the only goal 11 minutes from time to earn the Reds an opening-game win to their pre-season programme.
No Ings this evening, of course, having picked up a fresh knee injury soon after making his competitive comeback last term. Klopp will be hoping to keep his star names away from the sidelines, boosted by the fact that Mane will remain at Anfield for the duration of the campaign this time around as there is no Africa Cup of Nations in January. Henderson is another who will be targeting an injury-free season, with the ankle injury picked up in February keeping him out for the remainder of the campaign.
With kickoff at Prenton Park now a little over five minutes away, let us turn attention to some pre-match thoughts from both camps.
Micky Mellon: "What we wanted to do in our recruitment was bring players, who bring different qualities to the strikers that we already have, into the building. A bit like a golf bag, where you have different clubs to do different things, we found that throughout the season we would like to have different players available for certain games because we felt that was what we needed to do. Or different parts in that game – we'd like to be able to bring people off the bench and do a bit of something different for us."
Jurgen Klopp: "Pretty much all of the players will play at Tranmere. Of course, not Adam and Phil – they only arrived on Tuesday and they have to train now, then we will see how far they are before the game at Wigan. It is not even sure we will try this, so then for sure in Asia they will be a part of the lineup. Everyone who can run, if you like, will play! So that's what we will try to do, we have a nice and big group at the moment. Little problems here, little problems there, but not too much so far."
Tranmere boss Mellon giving an insight to his transfer plans with a useful golfing simile, with a couple of his new boys on show tonight. Another of the new recruits, Elliot Rokka, has just been added to the substitutes' bench, so supporters can run the rule over these new hopefuls. The target at the end of it all will be promotion back to the EFL, but before thoughts can turn to Torquay United, Mellon must get his players fully up to speed after a short break.
Klopp outlining his pre-season intentions, meanwhile, explaining why both Lallana and Coutinho will not feature today. The bad news for Liverpool fans is that Mane, so important last season in his debut season, will unlikely play any part in the next leg as he is not in Klopp's plans for that trip to Asia. Two separate lineups to be fielded by the German tonight, starting with a 4-3-3 formation that will see Sturridge, Ojo and Firmino start up top in a fluid attack line.
© Getty Images
KICKOFF! Liverpool's pre-season campaign is officially under way, with Tranmere Rovers kicking off against their near neighbours. A chance for Ojo just 40 seconds in after latching on to a ball over the top, only to slice his finish when rounding the keeper.
CLOSE! Bright start to the match as, moments after Ojo squandered a good opening at one end, Liam Ridehalgh sent in a promising delivery for James Norwood to head over the crossbar. Not a bad attempt but will perhaps be disappointing not to have tested Karius.
End-to-end at the moment, with both keepers being called into action to sweep up the ball. Ojo with the best of the opening chances, rounding Scott Davies but making bad connection with the ball when getting a shot away at goal.
CHANCE! Big chance for Matip to open the scoring from five yards out. Milner's corner was flicked on towards the back post, where the defender was waiting for what appeared to be a simple finish. He went for power and blasted over the bar from close range.
Another teasing ball comes in from the right, which Davies this time gets to. A real positive start from the visitors, as they look to get their pre-season programme up and running with a victory. Ojo's shot is blocked wide for a corner.
Tranmere had that one headed chance in the opening few minutes, but either side of that Liverpool have dominated possession at Prenton Park. Most of the game has been spent in the hosts' final third, though the net has yet to bulge.
Liverpool are planning to change their entire lineup at the break, remember, so no real surprise to see their players really push themselves during the opening 45 minutes. Wigan up next for them and the same will likely happen there.
The visitors win themselves another corner, yet again through some good work down the right. Alexander-Arnold lays it off to Ojo, whose delivery could have been better. First man only, where it was helped behind for the set piece.
Milner breaks into the box down the left but McNulty read the danger well to clear away. Non-league side Tranmere having to do plenty of defending in the opening quarter of this match, which remains all square at the moment.
Sturridge drops deep, right on the edge of his own half where he lays it off to stand-in centre-back Lucas Leiva. It is eventually worked to Firmino who was caught out after looking to go it alone, with Milner better placed alongside him.
Nearly a quarter of the match now played and it is Liverpool who have been the better side, but they have been made to work hard over the past five minutes or so. Tranmere looking to get the ball forward a little more, with Lucas needing to be alert to thwart Norwood in behind.
Ojo creating plenty of shooting angles, only to yet again be thwarted by Steve McNulty in front of goal. The no-nonsense centre-back gets his head on the end of the curler, which could well had been creeping into the bottom corner.
SAVE! Liverpool playing some nice football at times, playing it out from the back and into wide areas. Sturridge drifts outside to take control of things, inevitably cutting back inside and sending a tame shot down the middle for Davies to keep out.
Again, Liverpool spraying the ball around well but the final ball is lacking at the moment. The latest attack ends with Milner being played in down the left and sending in a cross for Davies to easily collect down low. McNulty then cleared a loose ball.
Alexander-Arnold, who signed a new long-term deal earlier this week, sends his latest delivery over the crossbar. Karius with near enough his first involvement in the match moments beforehand, racing out to collect a flicked through-ball.
SAVE! Davies with his first serious save of the evening, pushing aside a decent attempt from Marko Grujic. The Serbian youngster found the ball at his feet inside the box and almost picked out the net for the opening goal.
Klopp's are deserving of a goal on the basis of the opening 45 minutes, but the lack of end product has cost them so far. Plenty of time for that to be ironed out before the real thing begins, of course, with this match all about fitness.
PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL! Davies committed to the ball when it ran loose inside the box but only managed to catch Ojo with his leg, leading to experienced referee Mike Dean pointing to the spot. Milner the man to step up...
GOAL! TRANMERE ROVERS 0-1 LIVERPOOL (JAMES MILNER, PEN)
He may have seen his perfect penalty record ended by Fraser Forster at the tail end of last season, but Milner is back among the goals from the spot thanks to this opener against Tranmere. Into the bottom corner, with a small touch from Davies not enough to keep it out.
A great cross from Alexander-Arnold across the six-yard box goes begging, as Liverpool push ahead for a second goal of the evening. Milner, who opened the scoring a few moments back, whipped a shot from 19 yards out that flew just past Davies's far post.
Four minutes of the first half remaining, with a clean sweep of changes to be made at the break by Klopp. Plenty of width for the visitors to make the most of in the opening 45 minutes, which Tranmere boss Mellon must rectify at the break.
GOAL! TRANMERE ROVERS 0-1 LIVERPOOL (MARKO GRUJIC)
A real belter from promising youngster Grujic, picking out the bottom corner from close to 30 yards out. Davies got down but it was so well placed that he could do little to keep it out, meaning that the Reds have themselves a second.
HALF TIME: TRANMERE ROVERS 0-2 LIVERPOOL
Referee Mike Dean blows his whistle for half time, bringing an end to an opening 45 minutes that Liverpool had by far the better of. Goals from James Milner
and Marko Grujic, the opener coming from the spot, has put the Reds two in front at the break and given Tranmere Rovers plenty to think about ahead of the second half.
There was a chance just 40 seconds in for Seyi Ojo to open the scoring, as he brought down a ball over the top and rounded the keeper, only to then slice the finish wide of goal. Tranmere were pegged back for large parts of the first half, creating their only chance a few minutes in when James Norwood nodded over a Liam Ridehalgh cross.
Joel Matip squandered a big opening of his own soon after, blasting over the crossbar from five yards out when a James Milner cross was flicked into his path at the back post. For all Liverpool's possession there was little work for opposition keeper Scott Davies in the opening half an hour, keeping out one tame Daniel Sturridge drive and a smart effort from Marko Grujic.
The breakthrough goal arrived 34 minutes in as Davies committed to getting a loose ball with his leg, only to catch Seyi Ojo and concede a penalty, which Milner just about tucked into the bottom corner of the net. Grugic was able to add a second before the break, brilliantly sending the ball past Davies from close to 30 yards out with a fizzed shot to put the Reds well in command at the interval.
Both sets of players are now out on the field of play. Here is a reminder of Tranmere Rovers's starting lineup, as well as Liverpool's completely changed XI for the second half.
TRANMERE ROVERS: Davies; Buxton, McNulty, Sutton, Ridehalgh; Duggan, Harris, Hughes, Norburn; Cook, Norwood
LIVERPOOL: Karius; Clyne, Gomez, Klavan, Flanagan; Stewart, Chirivella; Woodburn, Markovic, Kent; Solanke
RESTART! Klopp pushes ahead with the clean sweep of outfield changes, then, meaning a chance to see some other fringe players, as well as those who made an impact last term. Solanke will have plenty of eyes on him.
Ryan Kent making a bright start to the second half, getting down his wing and sending a good delivery into the middle of the box. The message from Klopp will no doubt be to push on from the first-half showing by exploiting both flanks.
GOAL! TRANMERE ROVERS 0-3 LIVERPOOL (PEDRO CHIRIVELLA)
Liverpool's positive start to the second half is rewarded, as Spanish youngster Pedro Chirivella
helps the ball home for the visitors' third of the evening. Kent sent the ball into the box and, after Solanke's shot was kept out, Chirivella was there to tap home.
Only a pre-season outing, and the opposition are of non-league standard, but Klopp will be happy with what he has seen from his side so far - or should that be 'sides'. Second-half XI performing just as well as the first-half contingent.
SAVE! Solanke is looking very lively, pulling the ball back for another bright spark in Woodburn to test Davies down low. Decent stop in the end to keep the scoreline at 3-0, but that fourth Reds goal appears to be close.
Pretty much constant attacking from Liverpool in the opening 12 minutes of this second half, using the fresh legs to their advantage. Kent doing more than anyone to catch the eye at the moment, really bossing the left-hand side.
TRANMERE ROVERS SUBS! Tranmere made a change of their own at the break, incidentally, bringing on former Liverpool man Jack Dunn for Andy Cook. Four more subs made by Mellon as we approach the hour mark - Dunn, Owusu, Mangan and Jennings all introduced.
Klopp still has Mane, Salah, Lallana, Coutinho, Can and others to integrate into his squad over the coming weeks. A case of job done for the group used tonight, having bagged two in the first half and built on that with another early in the second.
SAVE! Good stop from Karius, the only survivor from the first half, to keep out Andy Mangan from fairly close range. Not the best defending from Liverpool and the substitute nearly made them pay, but Karius was equally to the drive.
SUBS! Scott Davies may have conceded three goals but he has also made a fair few decent stops. His evening is over, as deputy keeper Luke Pilling is on in his place. Karius also comes off, replaced by 18-year-old Kamil Grabara.
Liverpool's momentum has slipped away over the past six minutes or so, not helped by the change in personnel by the opposition. The Reds will no doubt be targeting another goal or two in the remaining 23 minutes of the match.
Tranmere have themselves changed more than half of their side now, with those fresh legs certainly helping. A more evenly-matched contest, but the hosts do not really look like pulling one back at this stage in proceedings.
Kent's free kick from the right is deflected over Pilling and onto the roof of the net. Liverpool starting to build up some momentum once again as we enter the final quarter of this opening pre-season fixture for both sides.
In terms of the hosts, Mellon will not be all that concerned by what he has seen tonight. His men left far too much space down the flanks in the first half, but the quality of opposition is far superior to what they will face next term.
The home side looking the better over the past few minutes, pushing high up the field and winning a throw close to the corner flag. Grabara yet to do anything since replacing Karius, no doubt secretly hoping for a few shots to come in.
TRANMERE SUB! Elliot Rokka is introduced for his Tranmere debut, replacing Norburn in attack for the final 14 minutes. Eddie Clark also on for Liam Ridehalgh as Mellon continues to run the rule over his squad in this Prenton Park friendly.
PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL! Kent bursts through the middle and slots the ball through for Woodburn, who is felled inside the box. Mike Dean points to the penalty spot for the second time today, and the Welshman is to step up.
GOAL! TRANMERE ROVERS 0-4 LIVERPOOL (BEN WOODBURN, PEN)
Woodburn sends compatriot Pilling the wrong way to add a fourth goal of the night at Prenton Park. The Reds have been quiet since around the hour mark but they have now matched the goals tally from the first half, at least.
Liverpool the side pressing for the game's fifth goal, nearly getting it through Solanke as he was allowed to drift closer and closer to goal. In the end the angle was against him and his shot was blocked aside before it could reach the intended target.
CHANCE! Markovic misses an absolute sitter, much like Matip in the first half. The ball was laid off to him in front of goal, but instead of picking his spot he blasted high over the bar. Really should have been netting from there.
SAVE! Solanke really wants to net on his Liverpool debut, again doing well inside the box but this time being kept out by Pilling. Around three minutes left to play now, with no added time expected at the end of the match.
No real sign of a fifth goal being added since that Solanke attempt. Tranmere have created just one chance all evening, with Cook heading over that chance inside the opening few minutes. Near enough all Liverpool since then.
FULL TIME: TRANMERE ROVERS 0-4 LIVERPOOL
Liverpool are up and running with a convincing four-goal win over Tranmere Rovers, courtesy of a couple of goals in either half. Boss Jurgen Klopp managed to get 21 outfield players out on the pitch, a few of which particularly stood out. In terms of the second half, Ryan Kent caught the eye and Dominic Solanke also looked lively, giving plenty of hope that he can be a hit at Anfield.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events at Prenton Park. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, while a look at a select group of pre-season friendly results can be viewed here
. Be sure to join us tomorrow for coverage of friendlies involving Arsenal and Everton. See you then!