Liverpool v Rapid Vienna, pre-season friendly, July 19, 2009
A goalless draw with St. Gallen, while only the first pre-season match of the year, will nevertheless have been disappointing for Liverpool fans who were looking for signs that, maybe, this year will be the Reds’ opportunity to finally regain the league championship.
Since the match against the Swiss, Liverpool have welcomed back their Spanish contingent of Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa, while Argentine 25-year-old Javier Mascherano also makes his return to the squad.
Yet, despite Rafa Benitez having almost a full compliment of players at his disposal, the whispers ahead of the match is that only Mascherano is likely to play a part, while the others are afforded just a little more time to settle back into routine.
That should give an opportunity to some of Liverpool’s youngsters to shine again as Benitez continues to offer his fringe players a chance to stake their claim for first team football. Jay Spearing, Mikel San Jose, Nabil El Zhar and David N’Gog will all be looking to make an impresssion while Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin will try and dispel the question-marks hanging over their Anfield futures.
Having finished runners-up to Red Bull Salzburg last season, Austrian outfit Rapid Vienna will be no pushovers for the Merseysiders. Rapid’s season has already begun with the Austrians thrashing Albanian side Vllaznia 5-nil in their Europa League qualifier last weekend, where 24-year-old Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic came off the bench to claim a quick-fire brace.
Rapid’s main danger man though is Austrian international forward Erwin Hoffer. The 22-year-old striker is commonly known as the fastest player in the Austrian leagueÂ and, as well as being a fans’ favourite, is able to boast a record of 42 goals in 86 games for Rapid. Last season Hoffer bagged 28 goals in 36 matches.
(Video evidence of Erwin Hoffer’s goals in the 2008/09 season can be seen here.)
101predicts: Liverpool 3 – Rapid Vienna 1 (11/2)
Full match odds here.