Bielsa’s entertaining Leeds and two familiar opponents return to Premier League

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There are two familiar opponents returning to the Premier League this season, but it’s been 16 years since Leeds United lined up in the top flight.

The Yorkshire side are one of the big talking points ahead of the new season, with plenty of interested eyes on how they’ll do under the management of enigmatic Argentine Marcelo Bielsa.

Bielsa’s side are, of course, Liverpool’s first opponents on the opening weekend and it will see an old rivalry rekindled, dating back to the ’60s and ’70s when the two teams dominated domestic football.

Leeds have broken their transfer record to bring in Spanish striker Rodrigo, splashing £30 million on the 29-year-old who Bielsa will be hoping can provide the goals to not only keep them up but perhaps also have a season more like last season’s newcomers, Sheffield United.

Plenty of media predictions have Leeds finishing safely in midtable, but it’s not the same for the other new boys.

West Brom are tipped by many to not only struggle but to finish bottom of the pile, while Fulham would see finishing 17th as a huge season for them.

Liverpool haven’t lost to Fulham since 2012, winning the six meetings since, and it’s a similar story vs. West Brom, who haven’t beat the Reds in the league since 2013.

We speak to supporters of the three newly-promoted sides to get their thoughts ahead of the new season.

 

LEEDS UNITED

File photo dated 10-08-2019 of Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips (Tim Goode/PA Wire/PA Images)

STADIUM: Elland Road
MANAGER: Marcelo Bielsa
CAPTAIN: Liam Cooper
LAST SEASON: First in Championship
KEY PLAYER: Mateusz Klich
LAST TIME IN PREMIER LEAGUE: 2004

FAN: Charlie Smith – @CharlieSmith118

Where do you think Leeds will finish?

I would take anywhere above the bottom three for our first season back in the Premier League after 16 long years away, to be honest. I will go for 13th.

Be prepared for entertaining matches involving Marcelo Bielsa’s side!

Advice for visiting supporters to your stadium…

Be ready for a hostile atmosphere when fans can finally return! I would advise using public transport to get to Elland Road as well.

Anything new at your club?

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 2, 2008: Snow drifts down illuminated by the Elland Road floodlights during the FA Youth Cup 3rd Round match between Leeds United and Liverpool. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Elland Road will have undergone some changes for our long-awaited return. New fancy dugouts will be in place, improved media facilities and brighter floodlights.

The club recently announced a new deal with Adidas and they have produced some smart kits for the upcoming season.


FULHAM

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 17, 2019: A general view of Fulham's Craven Cottage stadium before the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

STADIUM: Craven Cottage
MANAGER: Scott Parker
CAPTAIN: Tom Cairney
LAST SEASON: Fourth in Championship – beat Brentford in playoff final
KEY PLAYER: Aleksander Mitrovic
LAST TIME IN PREMIER LEAGUE: 2019

FAN: Russell Goldman from Cottage Talk – @Cottage Talk

Where do you think Fulham will finish?

I will say 17th because all I care about is staying in the Premier League.

I feel Fulham are built better this time around to stay in the league than two seasons ago, because their approach in the transfer window is going to be more sensible and they are not going to blow up the team from last season. They are also much better defensively now.

Advice for visiting supporters to your stadium…

Craven Cottage is very special and I am sure many Liverpool supporters know this already.

When fans are allowed to return I think a trip to west London is one Reds fans will look forward to. You are close to the pitch and it really is an intimate atmosphere.

Anything new at your club?

Well, the signing of Antonee Robinson is significant, but beyond that, I would say the mentality of the club heading into the season will be very different.

I think last time around Fulham wanted to compete with teams like Liverpool – this time you will see a team intending to stop them from playing along with the other big clubs. I think the mentality will match the one of Scott Parker.


WEST BROM

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, 2016: A West Bromwich Albion club crest during the FA Premier League match against Liverpool at the Hawthorns. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

STADIUM: The Hawthorns
MANAGER: Slaven Bilic
CAPTAIN: Jake Livermore
LAST SEASON: Second in Championship
KEY PLAYER: Matheus Pereira
LAST TIME IN PREMIER LEAGUE: 2018

FAN: Paul Suart – @PaulSuartWBA

Where do you think West Brom will finish?

Slaven Bilic would snap your hand off for 17th place, of course he would. I see no reason why the Croatian can’t mastermind a survival mission, provided Albion pick up enough points from the teams that will almost inevitably be around them in the table.

The Championship is clearly a different beast, but Bilic’s Baggies showed they can win matches in different ways and have also displayed genuine defensive steel when required.

West Brom's Ahmed Hegazi in action during the premier league match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date 25th September 2017. Picture credit should read: David Klein/Sportimage via PA Images

In captain Jake Livermore, Kieran Gibbs, Ahmed Hegazi, Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin, Albion we have plenty of top-flight experience as well as real talents such as Semi Ajayi, Romaine Sawyers and Matheus Pereira who will be desperate to show they have what it takes.

I’m backing West Brom to finish between 14th and 17th.

Advice for visiting supporters to your stadium…

Liverpool don’t visit The Hawthorns until May, by which time stadiums could be full of fans on matchday, or at least close to capacity.

But, of course, there’s a chance away fans will not be allowed at any top-flight fixtures this season. I suppose much will depend on the number of new coronavirus cases and rate of infection as we emerge from the winter.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - Monday, August 10, 2015: A general view of West Bromwich Albion's The Hawthorns as they take on Manchester City during the Premier League match. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The measures put in place by each club to ensure their stadium is COVID-secure will, no doubt, be determined by the latest government guidance.

Anything new at your club?

That there isn’t so much that’s new at West Brom going into the 2020/21 season might actually prove to be a good thing.

They have gone into the last two campaigns with a new manager in tow, but having steered Albion to automatic promotion, Bilic will lead the Baggies for a second successive season.

Stability could be key to Albion’s survival chances, but I’m sure the former West Ham boss wouldn’t mind seeing a little more change by way of his playing staff.

Pereira is his only summer signing to date. Albion spent £8.25 million to make his loan from Sporting Lisbon a permanent move. An absolute snip in my view.

The brilliant Brazilian lit up the Championship with his wizardry on the ball, both in terms of defence-splitting passes and goals scored, and I predict he will make waves in the top flight, too.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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