FourFourTwo Picks: The Strikers
But here's the twist. Instead of posting our predicted lineups all at one go, Jeremy Lim and Dominic Neo will reveal one member of the team each day, as we count down the number of sleeps till the big match.
Without further ado, we present FourFourTwo Picks: The Strikers.
An imposing number 9 in Italy
Team: Juventus FC
It was during the Serie A game at Lazio in January that Juventus found themselves on the back foot. There was no way through their hosts’ defence... no way through until Carlos Tevez found the onrushing Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right. The Swiss sent a cross that appeared too high in towards the far post, but Fernando Llorente still jumped to glance the ball up and over goalkeeper Etrit Berisha’s reach.
The striker’s mighty effort had been a test of athleticism and technique. Llorente passed it with flying colours. Even if his reputation as a lethal finisher preceded him, few could have been prepared for the type of impact the former Athletic Bilbao player made upon setting foot in Turin. The 29-year-old mustered 18 strikes in all competitions - 16 in the notoriously stingy Italian league.
His imposing frame arrived as a rude shock to opposition rearguards, helping him batter defences into submission. It belied surprisingly nimble footwork at the same time, making him the perfect foil to bring team-mates into play for the Bianconeri. Currently in his second year with Juventus and already prolific in the club’s tour of Asia-Pacific, Llorente will soon be looking to notch more goals, and many pieces of silverware.
A nippy 9-and-a-half in Singapore
Team: Singapore Selection
Club: Warriors FC
His position as a “centre-forward” is a slight misnomer — Nicolas Velez is very much what Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, terms as a “9-and-a-half”, a modern, mobile forward who is constantly on the move, drifting into the half-positions in between the lines. One requires power, pace and great tactical awareness to do that, and these are the qualities that Velez has consistently shown in his first season with Warriors FC.
Oh, and just like Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool’s 9-and-a-halves last season, the Argentinean forward is a clinical finisher — he has notched 14 goals and three assists in 18 appearances, marking a speedy acclimatisation to foreign surroundings. True to Velez's aggressive playing style, he has hit the ground running.
Fast, strong, powerful and direct, Velez’s inclusion in the Singapore Selection side is telling of the type of football Stange wishes to instill — a high tempo game that involves relentless pressing, intercepting high up the field to enable quick and fluid transitions. With the former Athletico Sanluqueno CF and Huracan striker leading the line, Stange can be rest assured that Velez will be pressing from the get-go.
Whether Velez turns out for the Singapore national team one day remains to be seen. He would be one heck of an addition, though. For now, the mighty Juventus defence might have to look over their shoulder — Velez is not going to give them an easy time.
FourFourTwo will be at the Singapore Sports Hub on August 16 to watch the Singapore Selection take on Juventus FC. Will Pogba and Hariss dazzle fans with their footwork? You'll only find out if you join us there! Tickets to the match - priced from S$45 to S$180 for adults and S$30 to S$45 for children – are still available at Sports Hub Tix (www.sportshubtix.sg).
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