Date: 12th September 2020
Time: 17.30 GMT, 12.30 ET, 10.30 PST.
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England
Streaming/TV coverage: Sky Sports, LUTV.
Leeds United travel to Anfield to face last season’s Premier League winners Liverpool in their opening match of the new season.
Liverpool won the Premier League by 18 points last season, while Leeds won the Championship by 10 points. Liverpool are rightly heavy favourites for the match but there is an (optimistic) argument that there is no better time to play them than on the opening day, as they may not be at their overwhelming best.
First of all some realism, Liverpool have won 25 of their last 26 league games at Anfield. They also haven’t lost a league game at home in 59 matches since April 2017, a 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is back available after injury but he may well not be risked. Trent Alexander-Arnold had also been struggling for fitness but he played for England against Denmark alongside a debuting Kalvin Phillips suggesting he will be fit, but it wouldn’t be that unlikely for Wales international Neco Williams to deputise. In Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool have the consensus best centre-back in the Premier League and he will probably partner Joe Gomez at the back.
Liverpool have an incredible front three. Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will start wide but come inside and be the main goal threat, with Brazil international Roberto Firmino dropping off from the central striker role as a ‘false 9’.
Henderson’s injury, and the possible transfer of Georginio Wijnaldum to Barcelona leave a gap in central midfield alongside (probably) Fabinho and Naby Keita. Young midfielder Curtis Jones may get the nod but it’s against Leeds so I fancy Jurgen Klopp to pick James Milner in that role.
Marcelo Bielsa may not have signed his contract yet (or it hasn’t been announced) but he said he was staying in his press conference and that is enough for me. New signings Robin Koch and Rodrigo are both available and described as “ready” by Bielsa. I still get a feeling that they both might be on the bench, but if one is to start I expect it to be Koch.
"Everything has been sorted. It's definite that I will be here next season."— Phil Hay (@PhilHay_) September 10, 2020
Leeds will play the same style as last season and I think we will start in the 4-1-4-1, although they may play in their 3-3-1-3 shape in order to deal with Liverpool’s front three. This would necessitate Koch’s inclusion, probably between Luke Ayling and Liam Cooper as the three central defenders.
The other option would be to play a 3-3-1-3 formation instead which would solve the issue of the “libero” (or +1 defender in the man-oriented marking system): pic.twitter.com/GyTuCzlnnr— All Stats Aren't We (@AllStatsArentWe) September 10, 2020
If Leeds play a back four I think it will be Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Douglas - which seems strange to me but it would be very un-Bielsa to throw in a player having had less than one week training with the club. I have to say, The thought of Mane and Salah running at Dallas and Douglas is worrying from a Leeds perspective.
We will not have seen a Leeds match with the expected pattern of play for a long time. Liverpool will have the vast majority of the possession. Leeds will have to hope than they catch Liverpool on the counter-attack, particularly if we can win the ball back as Liverpool transition into their attacking phase - much like teams attempted to do against Leeds last season.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Allison; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Douglas; Phillips; Costa, Klich, Hernandez, Harrison; Bamford.
Last season I predicted we would lose every game 1-0 during the run-in for superstitious reasons. Now I am predicting a defeat because I cannot see us getting a result - I really want to be wrong. I do think we’ll score though.
Liverpool 3 - 1 Leeds United.
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.