With the start of the 2020/21 Premier League season almost upon us, we take a look at what’s new ahead of the campaign.
Liverpool thumped Blackpool 7-2 in their final pre-season friendly of the summer, prior to Saturday’s visit of Leeds.
The league season begins at a later date due to the outbreak of coronavirus, arguably making it an even more anticipated event.
While much remains the same in the Premier League this season, there are still plenty of new additions to look forward to.
There are three new teams for Liverpool to conquer over the next eight months, following the relegation of Norwich, Watford and Bournemouth.
The most exciting promoted outfit are Leeds, who return to the top flight after 16 years away, managed by the much-heralded Marcelo Bielsa.
Matches against the Reds have always had a bit of spice to them, so Saturday’s imminent curtain-raiser is an eye-catching way for both to start the campaign.
West Brom and Fulham are also back in the big time – can they defy the odds and secure survival?
The transfer window is open until October 5, leaving plenty of time for new arrivals to come in.
That’s not to say there haven’t already been noticeable purchases, however, with Liverpool’s rivals all strengthening.
Chelsea have acquired Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who are significant pieces of business, not to mention Hakim Ziyech, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell, too.
Leaving Stamford Bridge is Willian, who has joined the Mikel Arteta revolution at Arsenal.
Man City have signed Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake from Valencia and Bournemouth respectively, as they aim to wrestle back the title.
Donny van de Beek is a strong addition for Man United, while Matt Doherty has traded Wolves for Tottenham, with Jose Mourinho also acquiring the services of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton.
Leeds have snapped up Valencia striker Rodrigo in a big-money move, while Adam Lallana begins the next stage of his career at Brighton and James Rodriguez is the marquee arrival at Everton.
The Reds themselves have brought in Kostas Tsimikas – the hope is that Thiago Alcantara will be the next man through the door.
Other notable signings: Fabio Silva (Wolves), Allan (Everton), Gabriel (Arsenal), Timothy Castagne (Leicester), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace)
As mentioned, the addition of Bielsa to the Premier League should be fascinating.
The Argentine is regarded as one of the most influential managers of his generation, with Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola both big admirers.
Bielsa has got Leeds playing an entertaining brand of high-intensity, attacking football, so Liverpool will need to be wary this weekend.
Slaven Bilic has done an excellent job with West Brom and will want to improve on his last top-flight showing with West Ham, when he was sacked after a 4-1 defeat by the Reds in November 2017.
Meanwhile, Scott Parker is considered one of English football’s brightest young managers, so it will be intriguing to see how he fares with a talented Fulham side.
There will be tweaks in the rules this season, as is always the case.
Perhaps most pleasing is the decision not to continue the five substitute rule that was implemented during the end of 2019/20, instead returning to the usual three.
There will also no longer be drinks breaks, which made summer games horribly disjointed at times.
VAR is sure to find itself in the headlines on a weekly basis again, but changes have been made to (hopefully) alleviate the technology’s shortcomings.
Referees will now be encouraged to use pitchside monitors in order to make decisions, while accidental handball will now only be penalised if it prevents a goal or an obvious goalscoring chance.
Liverpool will strut into the new season in their impressive Nike kit, having ended their long association with New Balance earlier in the year.
There are other new strips doing the rounds away from Anfield, though.
Telecommunications company Three are sponsoring Chelsea, with their logo in the centre of the shirt reminding the Blues of where their highest possible finish is this season!
In fairness, Everton‘s new hummel strip looks nice, and Sheffield United’s latest effort is a strong contribution.
But wait until you see that new United third kit…
Another year, another new ball that promises to be unlike anything seen in football history!
Nike’s latest invention, the Flight ball, apparently “offers improved aerodynamics through a revolutionary ball design” – in other words, goalkeepers are going to find it even harder to preserve their dignity.
It can cost you as much as £124.95 on Nike’s official website, should you want to buy it for your five-a-side game.
Then again, the likelihood of firing it into a nearby hedge surely makes that a risky purchase.