Reds boss predicts tough test (22 July 2009)

Liverpool's fitness level and the weather could lead Thailand to a win over the Reds in a friendly at Rajamangala National Stadium tonight.

Thailand coach Peter Reid said yesterday Liverpool's players are not fully fit while Reds coach Rafa Benitez admitted that his men will face the sternest test so far in their preparations for the new season.

Reid said although Liverpool are without their captain Steven Gerrard who is standing trial on affray charges in Liverpool, the English side still have a lot of class players.

"Liverpool are a strong team with many talented players. But in football anything can happen," said the coach who played for Everton during the height of his career.

"Liverpool are in their pre-season campaign and they are around 60% ready. We hope to do well and win the match although it may be difficult for us."

Thailand are at relatively full strength with their overseas-based stars returning for selection including midfielders Datsakorn Thonglao and Surat Sukha, striker Teerathep Winothai and versatile Sutee Suksomkit.

Highly-rated Thai-Swiss Peter Lang is likely to start in the place of injured right-back Suree Sukha, while Teerathep and Teerasil will lead the attack.

Liverpool drew 0-0 with Swiss club St Gallen and lost 1-0 to Rapid Vienna on Sunday in their first two pre-season games and they need a win here to boost their confidence.

On paper, Liverpool are favourites but Benitez told a press conference yesterday that his players' fitness will be given its sternest test so far.

"The conditions over here are different," said Benitez. "When we trained this morning it was wet but warm and so it's new to us. The players did a session on the weights and then some ball work.

"They all worked very hard but during the game I am sure Thailand will run more than us, so we have to be organised and prepared."

Benitez also confirmed that he intends to give as many players as possible some time on the pitch, meaning Thai fans will get an opportunity to see popular striker Fernando Torres in action.

"The Spanish players came back late (after the Confederations Cup) and have only trained for two days, so we will need to manage them carefully, especially in these conditions," he said.

"Most of the squad will play some part in the game."

One player who will not be involved is Yossi Benayoun, who is struggling to overcome an ankle injury.

"You never know in football whether we will be able to beat the Thai team or not. It depends on our team's fitness but we are trying our best," said the Spanish coach.

"Thailand have a big support from their local crowd which will make it difficult to play against them."

New signing Glen Johnson, who should shake off an Achilles injury in time to face Thailand tonight, has been overwhelmed by the scale of the welcome here.

It seems that Liverpool can never walk alone in Bangkok. The players' every move has been cheered by hundreds of fanatical locals since their arrival on Monday.

"It's unbelievable," said Johnson. "The lads were saying before we came out that we had a great support over here and it's incredible to see so many fans everywhere we go.

"Of course when you see such support it makes you even more determined to do well."

The match kicks off at 8pm and will be televised live on NBT (Channel 11).


Goalkeeper: Kosin Hathairattanakool

Defenders: Natthaphong Samana, Nataporn Phanrit, Kiatprawut Saiwaew, Peter Lang

Midfielders: Surat Sukha, Narongchai Vachiraban, Datsakorn Thonglao, Rangsan Vivatchaichoke

Strikers: Teerasil Dangda, Teerathep Winothai