The new EPL season is less than two weeks away. Hurray! The build-up to the new season is gaining momentum right now as clubs wind down their preparations and play their final warm-up games before the season proper gets underway. It has been a historic pre-season for Liverpool, who traveled through Asia before returning to Anfield at the weekend for Steven Gerrard’s memorable testimonial match against Olympiakos. The Reds captain has been playing for Liverpool for 15 seasons with 159 goals from 630 appearances.
Olympiakos hold special meaning in the Liverpool captain’s glorious career. In season 2004/05, Liverpool was on the brink of bowing out of the Champions League in the final round of the group stage before a typically brilliant Gerrard goal in the 86th-minute gave them a 3-1 win over Olympiakos and sent them on their memorable road to Istanbul.
Nine years on, the Greek side visited Anfield again with both teams full of young and unfamiliar faces. Two young players, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson, scored to make it 2-0. But this game was all about paying tribute to Gerrard and the Reds faithful was given a real treat when retired Liverpool legends Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler jogged onto the pitch in the second half. A happy afternoon in Anfield indeed!
By contrast, it was a tough finish to the pre-season for Arsenal and their manager Arsène Wenger. The Gunners were beaten 2-1 by Galatasaray in the final of the Emirates Cup with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba – who has a habit of making life difficult for Arsenal – scoring both goals for the Turkish side. Once again a spotlight was shone on Arsenal’s terrible defense. Should they be chasing Luis Suárez or a world-class defender instead? It doesn’t seem like rocket science to most football fans.
Meanwhile, Chelsea played some good football in North America. In the Guinness International Champions Cup they beat both Inter Milan and AC Milan 2-0 to soar into the final against Real Madrid. This Cup invited several top European sides and attracted plenty of football fans even though it was played in America. Players like Oscar, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata, who had extensive holidays due to their involvement in the Confederations Cup, have reunited with the squad. With all guns loaded, José Mourinho was able to see the full strength of his team for the first time and the signs are promising for the season ahead.