Premier League preview: Liverpool vs Leeds United
All the latest news and information as Liverpool kick-off their title defence against newly-promoted Leeds United on Saturday.
After a long period of underachievement, fans of two of England’s most fiercely-supported clubs finally got their wish last season. Liverpool had not been crowned champions since 1990 and Leeds United had been out of the top flight since they were relegated in 2004. But after an agonising wait, made longer by the pandemic, reigning champions Liverpool will host newly-promoted Leeds in their first fixture of 2020/21.
Liverpool vs Leeds United: predicted teams
Liverpool Predicted XI vs Leeds United
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson; Milner, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Leeds United Predicted XI vs Liverpool
Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Hernandez, Klich, Harrison; Bamford
Liverpool vs Leeds United Preview
The only player in the Liverpool squad to have lifted the Premier League trophy before is veteran midfielder James Milner who captained the team in their recent Community Shield defeat to Arsenal. He is also the only player on either side who was involved in the last league fixture between the two clubs. A young Milner was in the Leeds team who drew 2-2 against the Reds at Elland Road in 2004, just a month after his 18th birthday.
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Klopp looks likely to give more opportunities to some of the youngsters this season after a quiet summer in the transfer market. Kostas Tsimikas is their only senior signing to date so the Reds’ squad is largely unchanged, which will benefit some of the fringe players. Takumi Minamino impressed off the bench against Arsenal with his first goal for the club and he could be in for a bright season. The 25-year-old played just off Roberto Firmino as a roaming forward at Wembley and he could be deployed in a similar role to disrupt Leeds’ build-up play at Anfield.
However that will be easier said than done against an incredibly well-drilled and tactically flexible Leeds team. Under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa they have become one of the most fluid and entertaining sides in the country and were comfortably the best side in the second tier last year. The Argentinian coach favoured a 4-1-4-1 formation last season but his side are comfortable switching to a back three when needed. Their high-tempo playing style was particularly notable in their FA Cup game against Arsenal back in January. The Premier League side won 1-0 but Leeds dominated the play with more shots, more shots on target and a greater share of possession.
They are a tough opponent for Liverpool’s first league game and have strengthened over the summer to help secure their Premier League status. Spanish international Rodrigo arrived from Valencia for a club-record fee of £27million and will be expected to add the top level quality that Patrick Bamford sometimes lacks. But just as crucial to Leeds’ success this term could be new centre-back Robin Koch, brought in to replace fan-favourite Ben White who has returned to parent club Brighton. The German’s ball-playing ability makes him a good fit for Bielsa’s style of play and the £13million fee looks like good business for the 24-year-old.
Liverpool vs Leeds United: injuries and suspensions
Liverpool were fortunate with injuries for much of the 2019/20 season but they may be without their captain for the start of the new campaign. Klopp reported on Friday that Jordan Henderson is close to returning from a knee injury but having not featured at all in pre-season may not be ready for this game. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also unavailable having picked up a similar injury during pre-season.
New signing Tsimikas tested positive for coronavirus while away on international duty so has missed training in recent weeks, but he has now returned and could be called upon.
For the visitors Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed that Gaetano Berardi will miss out with an ACL injury and the Swiss defender has not yet been given a squad number. Bielsa usually prefers having time to work with a new player before bringing them into the starting XI but he may have little option but to hand new arrival Koch a start in the middle of defence. Midfielder Adam Forshaw is still unavailable after picking up a hip injury at the start of last season.
Liverpool vs Leeds United: what the managers said
Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool): "I am recovered on a professional basis. My boys are as well. All together, it was a challenge, the break we had wasn't one as it was intense mentally. Short break and then came back. We are now in our normal rhythm."
Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds United): “It’s difficult to assimilate how they will adjust to the Premier League. We have prepared but we need to show it on the pitch. We have been forming a group for some time and we have kept players we believe can play at a higher level.
Prediction: The stand-out game of the Premier League’s opening weekend should be an intriguing battle between two exciting and well-drilled sides. Liverpool will be the favourites after their incredible season last year but they are a less intimidating proposition without the fans in attendance. Both sides are intent on playing on the front-foot so we should see goals, but the home side should edge it. Liverpool 3-1 Leeds United
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