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Preview: Who to watch out for at the Premier League Asia Trophy

Photo: Crystal Palace

The Premier League Asia Trophy returns to Hong Kong after a 4-year hiatus. This time, no local team will participate in the tournament which will instead feature four English Premier League teams for the first time in history of the Asia Trophy. offside.hk took a closer look at who is coming to town. 

Liverpool

The 18-times English top tier champion (18 times 1st Division champions but yet to win a single EPL title) visit Hong Kong again for the first time after the 2009 Premier League Asia Trophy. In recent years the Merseyside club had a decline in results and failed to qualify for the Champions League most of the time. However, under current manager Jürgen Klopp the Reds have improved significantly and finally overcame EPL top-four regular Arsenal to finish fourth.

The Liverpool style of play is typical “Klopp heavy metal football”, which consists of high-pressing and quick counter attacks. The Bundesliga-winning manager is very enthusiastic on the pitch side and his dramatic celebrations will surely be a joy to watch in Hong Kong.

Player to watch: Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian Messi was linked with Liverpool back in January 2014, but joined Chelsea instead. After a rough time with the London club he switched to Italian side AS Roma in August 2015 where he had two brilliant seasons in Serie A. Salah was signed by Liverpool in June with a reported transfer fee of €42 million  and was already on the score sheet in a pre-season friendly against Tranmere.

Salah is the first signing of the season by Liverpool (Photo: Liverpool FC)

Leicester City

The Foxes were the champions of England in the 2015/16 season which shocked the world, but disappointing results in the first half of the 2016/17 season saw EPL-winning manager Claudio Ranieri being sacked in February 2017. However, current head coach Craig Shakespeare kept the Foxes in the top division with a brilliant spring season.

Leicester City usually approach their game with long balls and pacey counter attacks, while their players are famous for their team work which won them the title in 2016. They may not be in for the championship next season, but their pace in counter attack still makes them an entertaining team to watch.

Player to watch: Jamie Vardy

As record holder for the most consecutive Premier League games with a goal, Vardy has become a symbol for Leicester’s “never give up” attitude. Rejected by Sheffield Wednesday at youth level, he played non-league football until he was approached by Leicester at the age of 25. Vardy finally managed to shineand stunned the world with his brilliant EPL-winning season and good finishing.

Jamie Vardy celebrate his first goal of the 201617 season (Photo: Leicester City)



West Bromwich Albion

Dubbed as the ‘elevator’ by Hong Kong media in the first decade of the 21st century, because of their regular relegation and promotion between the EPL and Championship, the Baggies managed to become a top flight regular since 2010/11. They started well into the last season, but failed to win a single match after March, which saw them finishing just 10th.

WBA are currently managed by former Happy Valley player Tony Pulis, who is famous for his physical and long ball tactics since he was in charge of Stoke City. Thus, the Baggies have become a typical English team which employs long balls and a lot of crosses.

Player to watch: Ben Foster

The former Manchester United goalkeeper was criticized as error prone when he left the Red Devils, but has since produced continuously good performances during spells with Birmingham City and eventually West Bromwich Albion. In 2016/17 season he was nominated for the Football Writers’ Association “Footballer of the Year” award and was elected player of the season by the West Brom supporters’ club.

Ben Foster is a reliable keeper for the Baggies in recent years (Photo: West Bromwich Albion)

Crystal Palace

Having joined the Premier League as recent as 2013, the club from South London usually avoided the danger of relegation. However, they had a bit of a roller coaster ride last season, when a series of poor results saw them towards the bottom of the league in December 2016, which led to the sacking of coach Alan Pardew. However, former England manager Sam Allardyce took over and guided the team to safety. Interestingly, despite his success Big Sam resigned and Dutchmen Frank de Boer took over the Eagles.

Crystal Palace play a lot of long ball and with tall strikers like Connor Wickham and Christian Benteke, their attack usually involves plenty of crosses and headers. So if the rain in Hong Kong continues over the next few days, the Eagles may have a a bit of an advantage.

Player to watch: Wilfred Zaha

Wilfred Zaha was regarded as a future star for England when he led Crystal Palace to promotion in 2013. However, his transfer to Manchester United turned out be a disappointment, with just two appearances in six months. He was later loaned to Cardiff City and eventually returned to Crystal Palace, become an important member of the squad. His outstanding performance won him Crystal Palace’s “Player of the Year” awards in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Wilfred Zaha had a sensational season with Crystal Palace (Photo: Crystal Palace)

Match Schedule
Wednesday, 19 July
18:00 – Leicester City v West Bromwich Albion
20:30 – Liverpool FC v Crystal Palace
Saturday, 22 July
18:00 – Third-place play-off
20:30 – Final
All tickets are sold out, but there might still be some second-hand options available online. All games will be broadcast via LeSports HK and Now TV channel 621.
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