Venue – Anfield, Liverpool
Referee – Michael Oliver
Date & Time – Saturday, September 12th @ 17:30
Current Odds – Liverpool 1/4, Draw 5/1, Leeds 9/1
More memories will be made over the next 9 months, more goals will be scored to make our jaws drop. New stars will arrive while others begin to fade. The never-ending cycle of the domestic season will continue with one team crowned champions again in May. Liverpool gave us that gift this past summer. Now the question arises, can Jürgen Klopp’s men go ahead and retain the title? It may be the most commonly-used cliché in football, but let’s take one game at a time. First up, Leeds…
Welcome back, Reds.
Liverpool finished last season on 99 points, 18 ahead of nearest challengers Manchester City. During pre-season, The Reds beat VfB Stuttgart 3-0 and Blackpool 7-2. They drew 2-2 away to RB Salzburg and drew 1-1 in the Community Shield against Arsenal before losing on penalties.
It’s hard to judge how Liverpool will start this upcoming campaign but with the standard the bar has been raised to by both Jürgen Klopp’s side and Manchester City, hitting the ground running has never been more important.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds won seven of their last eight Championship games in June and July to storm to a 10-point title victory and automatic promotion back to the top flight. They lost only once in their final 15 games in 2019/20 (2-0 away to Cardiff City).
The goal difference in those last eight games was 21-3 for Leeds. Bielsa’s men conceded just one goal in their final five games so they may not be as easy to break down on Saturday as some are expecting.
Liverpool Team News
Jürgen Klopp will be hoping that both Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be fit to start on Saturday. Alexander-Arnold played 86 minutes of England’s 0-0 draw in Denmark on Tuesday evening. That was his first action of the ‘pre-season’.
Kostas Tsimikas was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Greece so he won’t be appearing in a first-team squad for another week or two at least.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered another knee injury in August but it’s hoped the midfielder will be available for selection again before the end of this month.
Klopp may well opt for Naby Keïta in the midfield alongside Fabinho and Henderson. Gini Wijnaldum played 90 minutes of his country’s win over Poland last Friday and again on Monday night as the Netherlands lost at home to Italy.
Keïta has been very involved during pre-season and was very much one of Liverpool’s in-form players when the 2019/20 season was being completed in June and July. Also, with all the talk of a Wijnaldum move to Barcelona, it might be best for Keita to start on Saturday.
It should be a case of business as usual in the forward line with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané all ready to start.
Alexander-Arnold will probably get the nod on Saturday, even if it is with the plan to substitute him off at some stage in the second half. Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk should partner-up in the middle of the back four with Andy Robertson in at left-back.
Leeds Team News
Kalvin Phillips is still recovering from a knee injury but he should make the starting lineup for Leeds at Anfield.
New signings Hélder Costa (from Wolves) and Jack Harrison (from Manchester City on loan) are likely to start on the right and left wings respectively.
Illan Meslier, Leeds’ 20-year-old French goalkeeper, will probably be Marcelo Bielsa’s first-choice between the sticks for the start of the season. Meslier impressed at the end of the 2019/20 campaign when he replaced the suspended Kiko Casilla as Leeds went on to win the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League.
Patrick Bamford should lead the line as the lone striker in a probable 4-1-4-1 formation for the visitors.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Keïta; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Leeds United XI (4-1-4-1) – Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Douglas; Phillips; Costa, Hernández, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
WHEN THEY LAST MET
The sides last met in the EFL Cup quarter-final back in November 2016. Liverpool won 2-0 at Anfield with goals from Divock Origi and youngster Ben Woodburn.
The most recent Premier League clash between the two teams was in February 2004 when they played out a 2-2 draw at Elland Road. Harry Kewell gave Liverpool the lead against his old club before Leeds responded through Eirik Bakke and Mark Viduka. Milan Baros equalised for The Reds before half-time and that was how it ended.
Leeds’ last league visit to Anfield was October 2003 when Liverpool beat them 3-1 thanks to goals from Michael Owen, Danny Murphy and Florent Sinama-Pongolle. Alan Smith scored Leeds’ consolation strike that day.
LIVERPOOL 2 – 1 LEEDS UNITED
Liverpool are in for a tough encounter on Saturday evening. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds will have done some extensive groundwork in preparation for this fixture (insert spying joke here) and will want to announce their return to the Premier League in style. Don’t be surprised if Liverpool struggle for the three points this weekend. However, any win would be a great result against such an opponent on the opening day of the season.