EPL clubs' China tours push goals

Updated 2017-02-14 11:32:33 China Daily

Soccer fans in China will once again get the chance to see English Premier League stars in the flesh this summer, after several top-flight teams have revealed plans for preseason tours in Asia.

London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea will meet outside the UK for the first time on July 22, when the Premier League heavyweights play a preseason friendly at the 80,000-capacity Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing.

Title hunters Liverpool may also visit China this summer, having agreed in principle to participate in this year's Premier League Asia Trophy in Hong Kong and Shanghai on July 20 and 22, while Southampton and West Bromwich Albion are also considering preseason tours in China.

Chelsea FC announced its China plans on the club's official website through a promotional video that features several star players speaking Chinese.

Serbia midfielder Nemanja Matic, Brazil forward Willian, England defender Gary Cahill, and young Dutch prospect Nathan Ake took turns to deliver lines in Mandarin with the message: "Good news. We're coming to China. See us versus Arsenal in July. Keep the blue flag flying high. See you there!"

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who is enjoying an impressive debut season in the English top flight with his team currently in first place with games to spare, said he was happy about the prospect of traveling to China for "another exciting match".

He added: "I have seen already the passion our supporters have for Chelsea here in England and last summer in America, and I believe our fans in China will show the same intensity when we are in Beijing."

It will be Arsenal's third trip to China in recent years: the Gunners faced Hangzhou Greentown in 2011, and Manchester City at the Bird's Nest in 2012.

Liverpool has alternated between the United States and Asia for preseason tours since the club was taken over by Boston-based Fenway Sports Group in 2010.

According to media reports, the West Bromwich Albion board is also mulling a preseason China tour and will release further details if the trip is confirmed. Entrepreneur Guochuan Lai became the first Chinese mainland owner of a Premier League club when he bought West Brom for 170 million pounds (1.8 million) in September.

The upcoming tours will play into the Premier League's plans to expand its already popular brand deeper into the lucrative Chinese market. Late last year, the Premier League secured its biggest ever overseas TV rights contract with a 564 million pound (2.6 million) three-year deal with Suning-owned Chinese digital broadcaster PPTV.

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