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Teams Ready for NexLions Cup

They might have arrived only a day earlier after long flights form the United Kingdom and Portugal, but all three foreign teams taking part in the NexLions Cup are confident of lifting the inaugural trophy

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They might have arrived only a day earlier after long flights form the United Kingdom and Portugal, but all three foreign teams taking part in the NexLions Cup are confident of lifting the inaugural trophy come Sunday at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Despite having to overcome jet lag and acclimatize to the hot and humid weather both Manchester United and Liverpool’s Academy Managers Brian McClair and Frank McParland are bullish about their teams’ chances during the official pre-event press conference held at the Singapore Flyer today.

Both are targeting to win their opening matches against Sporting Lisbon and Singapore Youth Selection respectively tomorrow thus setting up a mouth-watering final on Sunday against each other.

Asked how his team is adapting to the local weather since they have just arrived from near wintery conditions, former United striker McClair joked that the weather here is actually “like Manchester”.

On a more serious note, he signaled their clear intentions for this tournament when he added: “It’s a big challenge for us as we are going up against a team that has produced some very good players, but we are looking forward to that and we would like to win.”

He tried to downplay the rivalry between the two Northwest clubs however and insisted that at this level such talk is not really relevant and the most important thing is the development of the young players in such tournaments.

But his counterpart McParland threw down the gauntlet in the second press conference when he said that as far as Liverpool is concerned, they always derive pleasure in beating their neighbours and close rivals.

He said: “No doubt we have a friendly relationship with all the other academis, but the boys always enjoy getting one over United as the two clubs have such a traditional rivalry.”

Liverpool Under-19 skipper Adam Morgan, who is one of four players in the squad who has already had a taste of first team action under Brendan Rodgers, agreed with McParland. He said: “You want to win the tournament and you don’t go into a tournament wanting to get second or third. We are here to win it. We know it’s for development but as young lads, we want to win.”

Not that Sporting Lisbon Under-19 and Singapore Youth Selection are prepared to just lie down and let the English clubs have everything their way. Said the Portuguese side’s Under-19 coach Abel Ferreira: “We respect Manchester United and Liverpool, but we have met them before and we are up for the challenge. We are definitely targeting to win the tournament.”

Buoyed by the senior national side’s victory over Philippines the night before, Singapore Youth Selection head coach Aide Iskandar believes that his young charges will give Liverpool a good fight in their match-up and not make it easy for the Anfield club.

“The ┬áteam’s morale is definitely boosted because of the win yesterday against the Philippines. The boys are getting a lot of confidence from the Lions’ performance and are motivated to do well against Liverpool as this is a great platform for the players, especially as they will no doubt have aspirations to make it to the senior national team some day.”

But the English sides should have the edge over Sporing Lisbon as they both arrived on the same flight from Manchester via Dubai yesterday afternoon and have had the chance to take it a bit of city walk and settle in at the team hotel, whereas the Lisbon side only touched down in the evening and barely had time to have their dinner before trying to catch some sleep.

After the press conferences, all four teams’ representatives went on one of the capsules of the Singapore Flyer together with members of the local media for a photo call and it was clear that the young players like Sporting skipper Carlos Mane and Liverpool’s Morgan are clearly enjoying themselves in Singapore from the way they excitedly went around the capsule taking photographs.

Said Mane through team manager Pedro Luz: “I really like what I see of Singapore and I hope to come back one day for holiday.”

The teams will get to do some sight-seeing and shopping on Monday after the tournament but before that there is the small matter of putting up a show for their fans at the NexLions Cup on Friday and Sunday. No doubt local football fans will be thrilled to see some of the best youth talents on display over the next few days.

The NexLions Cup is a joint initiative between the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Kirkwall, who are exclusive partners of Manchester United Soccer Schools and Sporting Lisbon Academy in South East Asia.

Tickets starting at just $12 are available at Ticketbooth outlets and online (www.ticketbooth.com.sg). Concessions are also available for students and senior citizens.

Each ticket entitles the holder a chnace to win club merchandises signed by the first teams of LIverpool, Manchester United, and Sporting Lisbon. All ticket holders are also automatically entered into a raffle to win Warrior and Puma products as well as Manchester United Soccer Schools packages during the matches.

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