TOKYO (AFP) – Manchester United and Liverpool will next week kick off a packed pre-season as European clubs return to the Asia-Pacific region for the first time since the pandemic, keen to tap back into lucrative markets.
The English Premier League heavyweights face off in Bangkok on Tuesday for new United manager Erik ten Hag’s first game against Jurgen Klopp’s side, who threatened to win a historic quadruple last season before being pipped by Manchester City to the Premier League crown and losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid.
Paris Saint-Germain and their superstar players Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe will go to Japan later this month with a new manager, Christophe Galtier, in charge after his appointment this week to succeed Mauricio Pochettino.
Tottenham Hotspur and Premier League Golden Boot winner Son Heung-min, Asia’s most succesful player, are bound to receive a rapturous reception when they play two matches in South Korea next week.
And Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Leeds United will fly to Singapore and Australia as clubs reconnect with their global fans after being grounded by virus restrictions since 2020.
“It has been very challenging time for all clubs for the past two years,” said PSG’s Asia-Pacific managing director Sebastien Wasels, whose club will play three games against J-League sides.
“We know that it was difficult for our fans all over the world not to have the opportunity to see the team.”
Thai fans of Liverpool and Manchester United will get an unprecedented chance to watch the historic rivals on their own doorstep when they meet at Bangkok’s 51,000-capacity Rajamangala Stadium.
But many will be disappointed to be waking up yesterday to the news that unsettled Cristiano Ronaldo will not be making the trip with United, after the striker was given additional time off to deal with a family issue.