By Christopher Boulay
After advancing to the Europa League play-off round, Liverpool will get one final tune-up before the season starts as it hosts German side Bayer Leverkusen. Die Werkself will be led onto the pitch by a familiar face in Anfield circles, as Sami Hyypia makes his first return to Liverpool since signing for the German club in 2009.
Hyypia made 464 appearances for the Reds, and was a rock in the center of the back line while partnering with Jamie Carragher. The former Finnish international has managed Leverkusen since April 1, having been an assistant at the club since May 2011. Hyypia still considers Liverpool an important part of his life, and has left the door open for a return to the club in a managerial role down the road. He told ClickLiverpool.com,
“Of course Liverpool has a special place in my heart and [in the future] who knows, I don’t know. You can’t really plan a lot in football.”
Liverpool may play a varied squad against Leverkusen compared to the one that faced Gomel in the second leg victory. However, if manager Brendan Rodgers is looking for cohesion over fitness before the match against West Bromwich Albion next weekend, another strong team sheet could be on the cards.
There may be a new face breaking into the first team on Sunday. New midfielder Joe Allen recently completed his transfer from Swansea City, and may get some vital minutes before the Premier League season starts.
The club will also be looking to adjust to life without Craig Bellamy, who finalized his transfer to Cardiff City, his hometown side. Bellamy’s exit could suggest that the lineup put forth by Rodgers this week may not be the final for the season. Currently, Liverpool only has Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini, Andy Carroll and Nathan Eccleston to play as true forwards up front. Stewart Downing has been featured on the attacking wing, as of late, to help fill out the Liverpool attack.
Leverkusen will be a stiff test for the club, as it’s led by captain and occasional German international Simon Rolfes. In addition, the attack will likely feature Stefan Kiessling, who has more than 70 goals with the club. Andre Schurlle may also see time, and Liverpool supporters may know him from his time with Die Mannschaft during Euro 2012.
Americans can watch the match on WatchESPN.com.
Liverpool v Bayer Leverkusen
When: Sunday, August 12, 1000 EST/1500 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
League Position 2011-12: Liverpool eighth in Premier League 2011-12 (52 points), Bayer Leverkusen fifth in German Bundesliga (54 points)
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