Hong Kong downpours won’t affect Premier League Trophy, HKFA insists as Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp admits he is concerned
Reds forced to cancel one training session and move another since arrival in the city for Asia Trophy, but forecast is scheduled to improve ahead of Crystal Palace game on Wednesday
“If it would stop raining it would be nice,” said a frustrated Juergen Klopp on Tuesday as Hong Kong rainstorms played havoc with Liverpool’s preseason preparations – but the Hong Kong FA insisted they were confident the Premier League Asia Trophy would not be affected.
Liverpool were forced to cancel a training session at Mong Kok Stadium, at which local fans had been invited to attend, after the Hong Kong Observatory issued amber rainstorm, landslip, strong monsoon and flood warnings on Tuesday morning.
There was serious flooding in the New Territories, and though by lunchtime the worst appeared to be over, the amber alert was raised again at around 4pm – now the English Premier League and Hong Kong Football Association are praying for respite with the first games of the Asia Trophy to be played on the much-criticised Hong Kong Stadium pitch on Wednesday night.
WATCH: Premier League Asia Trophy press conference
Since midnight on Monday morning, more than 200mm of rain has fallen on the area around the stadium, but the rain was forecast to ease on Wednesday.
Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said: “There are some small water patches on the far corners and other than that the pitch condition looks fine despite the downpour over the last couple of days.
“It seems the new drainage system works very well and we are confident the matches will go ahead on Wednesday. With the forecast for some fine weather approaching the weekend, the finals on Saturday should be not affected.”
But Leung admitted the Premier League have sent a team to monitor the situation at the stadium as they are very concerned.
A spokesperson for the government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the stadium, said: “The pitch conditions of the Hong Kong Stadium have been under close and continuous monitoring. The drainage system has been operating very effectively during the heavy rainfall in the past few days.”
Earlier, Klopp was asked if he was concerned about possible injuries to his players, quickly replying, “Yes,” before playing down his fears.
“At this moment yes, what can I say? I could say no ...
“Not really concerns – it’s football, the weather forecast is quite positive, it could be better tomorrow ... when it stops raining I think a few hours later [the pitch] will be okay, always in life you need a little bit of luck and everything will be fine.”
Liverpool were left scrambling for an alternate training venue on Tuesday, with fans who had signed up for open session assured another event would be held for them on Friday.
Monday’s planned training session was also cancelled and it is not the way Klopp, a meticulous training-ground manager, would have wanted to continue his preparation for the new season, just over three weeks away.
“We are out there in Hong Kong at the moment checking different surfaces for us to train on, where we can go,” he said. “This situation is like football, you have problems, you need to find solutions ... we’ll train today wherever and I hope the weather will be fine.
Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp hopeful HK$30m pitch can cope as rain batters Hong Kong ahead of Premier League Asia Trophy
Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was diplomatic as he recalled a preseason match in Bangkok in 2015 that was played under comically heavy rain.
“We also two years ago we came to Asia and had a bit of rain,” he said.
“I think it’s normal when you come out here, we’re used to it and you cant predict the weather perfectly.
“We have to deal with it as best we can, we arrived yesterday made sure we were physically ready for training today and are looking forward to it.
“I think it’s good preparation for next season, the warm weather, the humidity ... we’ll deal with it as best we can.”
The last time the tournament was played in Hong Kong in 2013, then-Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio branded the surface a “killer pitch” as it was reduced to a quagmire by non-stop rain.
But it has been overhauled since at a cost of HK$30 million and organisers are confident, in public at least, that there will not be any issues.
Liverpool unveil ‘bold’ and ‘toxic’ new third kit in overblown Hong Kong hotel launch as circus comes to town
Liverpool open the competition against Crystal Palace, who have a new manager in former Netherlands great Frank de Boer.
“The physical aspect is very important and it’s very important we play games especially against this kind of opponent – everyone can see how far they are,” he said.
“Liverpool want to get physically better and better they’ll want to play very aggressive.”