Liverpool returns to action this Sunday when they face off against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side at 16:30 BST (15:30 GMT) at Elland Road. The Reds will be hoping to return from the international break with a bang. Read on for a preview of the game…
Liverpool were expected to travel to Yorkshire without Brazilians Alisson Becker, Fabinho Tavares, and Roberto Firmino after FIFA banned them due to an official complaint by the Brazilian FA after the players missed international duty due to covid-19 concerns. Leeds United themselves would have been without star winger Raphinha, as a nasty club vs country row rumble on.
A late decision to waiver the ban however has seen common sense prevail and all four players are now cleared to play, with Firmino the exception, missing through injury. The actual contest promises to be an end-to-end encounter as Bielsa’s high-intensity game comes up against the gegenpressing of Jurgen Klopp.
Two brilliant tacticians will line their teams up on Sunday with no holds barred. Expect both teams to go hammer and tongs at each other, with Leeds roared on by a full Elland Road. Last season, the two sides squared off at Anfield on opening day and provided an instant classic. A hat trick from Mohamed Salah saw Liverpool edge it 4-3 at Anfield, before a 1-1 draw at Elland Road in April.
Liverpool had taken the lead through Sadio Mané before Diego Llorente earned his side a point with a late header. In both games, Bielsa’s men enjoyed more possession and completed more passes. Liverpool were happy to allow them to do so, whilst springing fast and deadly on the counter. Leeds plays with no fear and honestly, they have been a breath of fresh air since their promotion last season.
They go toe to toe with the very best and back themselves to do so. They were unbeaten in their six home games against “the top six”, holding every one of them to a draw, bar Spurs who they beat 3-1. With a full crowd back at Elland Road, you can be sure they’ll be looking to go one better this season when they face the big boys.
This is a potential banana skin for Jurgen Klopp’s side, but then that’s the case every week, and that’s why we love this league so much. Liverpool has enjoyed a strong start to the season, beating Norwich and Burnley before being held to a draw by the European champions. Leeds on the other hand, are winless in the league so far.
They got smashed 5-1 on opening day at Old Trafford, suffering another hat trick, this time by Bruno Fernandes. They then held Everton to a 2-2 draw at home before earning a point at Burnley after Bamford’s late equalizer. They did manage to beat Crewe Alexander 3-0 but the Premier League is where they want to be getting those wins and you can expect them to believe they can beat Liverpool.
The Reds will have to match them for effort first and foremost and hope their superior quality shines through. Leeds led the Premier League for all the indicators related to intensity, needless to say, this will be an intense affair.
In terms of team news, Liverpool will be able to call on an almost full-strength squad, with Takumi Minamino joining Roberto Firmino on the sidelines through injury. Leeds have Diego Llorente fit to start and the Spaniard is crucial to their hopes of getting something from this game as their goals conceded per game stat is significantly better when he is in the team. Klich and Firpo are also available.
Patrick Bamford will be buzzing from his international debut for The Three Lions during the international break and alongside new record signing, Daniel James will be hoping to cause the Reds all sorts of trouble. Mohamed Salah will also be looking to get his name on the scoresheet as he’s just one away from a century in the Premier League, whilst Diogo Jota remains in red hot form.
Jurgen Klopp will have Wednesday’s Champions League group stage opener against AC Milan in mind, so there could be a little bit of rotation, especially bearing in mind the workload of the various players during the international break. Bielsa has no such worries however and will go all-in on what should be another gripping encounter. This one is too tight to call, you don’t want to miss it.