Fussball Server previews the opening-day Premier League showdown between champions Liverpool and newly-promoted Leeds United, including predictions, team news and lineups.
The opening day of the 2020-21 Premier League season provides a champions versus champions clash as last term’s top-flight title winners Liverpool welcome Championship winners Leeds United to Anfield.
Life back in the big time after a 16-year absence could not get off to a tougher start for Leeds, while for Liverpool they will be aiming to get their title defence off to a winning start after ending their 30-year wait to be crowned kings of England.
The memories of last season’s relentless, remarkable and record-breaking charge to the Premier League title will not have faded yet for Liverpool, but the league table has been refreshed and Jurgen Klopp will know that the next race begins in the very first game.
Manchester City – and perhaps others – will expect to put up a much more competitive fight this time around and so Liverpool will consider themselves back in the 2018-19 mindset, when they knew that any dropped points at any stage of the season could prove costly.
The Reds will also be confident, though, and rightly so given that they won the title with an unprecedented seven games to spare last season and finished a whopping 18 points above a Man City side widely regarded to be one of the greatest teams English football has ever seen.
There is likely to be motivation from outside sources too; bookmakers have Man City as clear title favourites despite last season’s one-horse procession, and Liverpool will know themselves that to be considered a truly great team they must now defend their crown – or “attack” the next one, as Klopp likes to say.
A Community Shield defeat on penalties to Arsenal will not cause too much consternation for Liverpool, who suffered the same fate at the hands of Man City prior to the 2019-20 campaign, and also like last season they will begin with a home match against the winners of the Championship.
Norwich City visited Anfield on that occasion having stormed to the Championship title with one more point than Leeds managed last season, and the Canaries caused problems despite ultimately falling to a 4-1 defeat.
Leeds will be hoping that a similar fate does not await them both in this game and in the season as a whole, and they at least know that matchday one is about as difficult as it gets.
Liverpool are unbeaten at Anfield since April 2017 – a run of 59 matches – and incredibly have won 25 of their last 26 on home turf, the only exception being a 1-1 draw with Burnley in July which ended the longest home winning run in English top-flight history at 24.
It is a formidable record, but Marcelo Bielsa may feel that matchday one, when his side are still buoyant from their promotion and fired up for their first game back in the Premier League since 2004, is as good a time as any to face the champions away.
The visitors certainly have a good record on the opening day having played more games on matchday one without losing than any other team in Premier League history, winning five and drawing seven of their previous 12.
Leeds also ended last season in fine form and arrive on Merseyside with five wins from their last six away games, although there is only a certain amount you can read into that given that those games came at a different level.
Nonetheless, the Whites will feel that they are well equipped to compete in the top tier, particularly after bringing in proven international quality with the likes of Rodrigo Moreno and Robin Koch.
Add to that the Bielsa factor – and that he has now confirmed he is staying at the club – and Leeds are very much a promoted team that much of the division will be wary of facing.
Leeds will at least be confident of scoring, with Liverpool having kept just one clean sheet in their last nine outings including pre-season, which has seen them beat Stuttgart and Blackpool but draw with Red Bull Salzburg and lose to Arsenal on penalties.
Not since April 2001 have Leeds beaten Liverpool – a run of eight matches which includes six Liverpool wins and two draws – while their most recent visit to Anfield ended with a 2-0 League Cup defeat in 2016.
Liverpool pre-season form: WDLW
Leeds United pre-season form: L
Liverpool could be forced to start the new season without their captain Jordan Henderson, who continues to struggle with a knee injury carried over from last term.
The midfielder missed England’s double-header and has not featured in any of Liverpool’s pre-season games so, even if he is fit enough to play some part, it may only come from the bench.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also sidelined with a similar problem, while Xherdan Shaqiri is out with a muscle injury and new signing Kostas Tsimikas is unavailable to make his debut after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
Elsewhere, Klopp may consider resting Joe Gomez after he played the full 90 minutes in both of England’s Nations League matches, although the centre-back is expected to start alongside last season’s ever-present Virgil van Dijk.
Mohamed Salah will be looking to create another slice of Premier League history by scoring in a fourth successive opening fixture, a feat only previously achieved by Teddy Sheringham.
It is also bound to be a significant day for Leeds-born James Milner who, if he features, will have played in Leeds’ last 31 Premier League games despite their 16-year absence from the top flight.
The visitors come into the game with a relatively clean bill of health but will still be without Adam Forshaw, who continues to struggle with a hip injury.
The likes of Helder Costa and newly-capped England midfielder Kalvin Phillips have returned to fitness during the break.
Club-record signing Rodrigo is expected to lead the line for his debut, and if that is the case then it would be his first Premier League appearance since a loan spell with Bolton Wanderers in 2010-11.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Koch, Dallas; Costa, Hernandez, Phillips, Klich, Harrison; Rodrigo
We say: Liverpool 3-1 Leeds United
Leeds have the ability to cause Liverpool a few problems and this is unlikely to be a one-sided affair, despite Liverpool’s imperious record at Anfield.
Ultimately we expect the Premier League champions to get their title defence off to a winning start, but we also expect Leeds to give a good account of themselves on their return to the top flight.
Top betting tip
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips. .