Landing at Hong Kong airport this week, I expected to be greeted by adverts for the next generation of electronics, or maybe banks, or cars. The sight of Stuart Downing in an Aston Villa kit on a bilboard was a little surprising.
As another recent addition to Dalglish's Liverpool squad, Downing was an unfortunate selection by advertisers of the Barclays Asia Trophy. The 2011 version of the biannual four-team event involves his former club 1982 European champions Aston Villa, local up-and-coming champions Kitchee, 'superclub' Chelsea, and (as proof of the pull of the 'EPL', as well as some of it's more prestigious members) Blackburn Rovers.
Although as Rovers fans would be quick to highlight, the Lancashire club have at least won the Barclays Premier League, something Liverpool are yet to achieve (at the time of writing) and Aston Villa could only dream of.
Despite the popularity of the English game, I was able to go directly from airport to hostel to stadium and purchase a £20 ticket. Meeting up with friends local and Liverpudlian, we endured two games at the Hong Kong stadium that typified preseason football.
Aston Villa and Blackburn did their best to maintain a goaless scoreline, before Daren Bent claimed the game's only goal. Playing for the right to play the victors and avoid their conquest in Saturday's final / play off, Kitchee then played host to Chelsea.
Villa-Boas' men strolled to a four-goal victory, with double Didier Drogba strikes sanwiched between goals from Lampard and Sturridge. Substitute Fernando Torres received a warm reception by the majority of the crowd, but failed to find the net.
Aston Villa and Chelsea are likely to face a more useful test of their credentials and fitness on Saturday's tournament decider.
© Dr Joel Rookwood & Soccerphile
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