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10 key things to know ahead of Leeds vs. Liverpool

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Liverpool return to Premier League action with a testing trip to Leeds on Sunday afternoon, with a full Elland Road offering a different atmosphere to last season’s game.

The last time Liverpool played at Elland Road, it was a game lost in the Super League announcement less than 24 hours ago. This time out it is being dominated by the Brazilian FA fiasco ahead of Sunday’s game.

Here’s our match preview with 10 key things you need to know ahead of the Reds’ intriguing upcoming clash…

 

1. Leeds are winless from their opening 3 games

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Leeds United's manager Marcelo Bielsa reacts during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Leeds were many neutrals’ favourite last season, playing attacking, high-octane football which meant their matches were rarely dull.

The Lillywhites are hoping to improve on their ninth-place finish this time around, but things haven’t got off to a great start in 2021/22.

A 5-1 mauling at the hands of Man United was followed by a 2-2 draw at home to Everton, before salvaging a late point away to Burnley in matchday three.

Here’s hoping their winless start continues on Sunday…

 

2. Productive summer at Elland Road

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Leeds United's Jack Harrison celebrates after scoring the first equalising goal to level the score at 1-1 during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Leeds‘ summer was busier than Liverpool‘s (whose wasn’t?) Marcelo Bielsa didn’t make major additions to his squad.

Junior Firpo arrived from Barcelona, replacing Ezgjan Alioski at left-back and filling a role that has been occupied by utility players too often.

Meanwhile, winger Jack Harrison finally made his temporary move to Leeds permanent, having spent three seasons on loan from Man City.

Kristoffer Klaesson arrived as a young backup goalkeeper to Illan Meslier, while Daniel James joined from Man United on deadline day.

 

3. Liverpool CAN select the Brazilians!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson Becker (L) and Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The farcical situation surrounding the Brazilian FA was finally resolved late on Friday night, with confirmation from FIFA on Saturday morning that the players are no longer facing a five-day ban.

Therefore, Fabinho and Alisson are free to play, although Roberto Firmino is ruled out with his hamstring injury.

That leaves quite the selection poser for Klopp in midfield, with Fabinho and Thiago having just had two weeks ‘rest’ and training at Kirkby, making them almost certain starters.

The other place will be between Jordan Henderson and Harvey Elliott, with the captain most likely to get the nod after Elliott had a minor knock on international duty.

Virgil van Dijk is fit and took part in training from Thursday onwards.

 

4. Raphhina in and James’ debut?

Leeds United's Raphinha during the Premier League match at Elland Road, Leeds.

On the flipside of Liverpool‘s Brazilian contingent being available is that Raphinha is also eligible for Leeds.

The 24-year-old has been a revelation for Bielsa’s men, and a rumoured Reds transfer target, wreaking havoc in a right-sided role akin to Mohamed Salah.

Had he been ruled out, then Daniel James would likely make his Leeds debut after arriving from Man United in a big-money move at the end of the transfer window. James now could be a sub instead.

Let’s hope the obvious script doesn’t write it itself and an ex-United man doesn’t ruin Liverpool‘s afternoon…

 

5. Leeds’ potential lineup is…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Leeds United's Patrick Bamford celebrates after scoring the second equalising goal to level the score 2-2 during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Most of Leeds‘ starting lineup picks itself but there are some question marks.

Meslier will be in goal, while Luke Ayling, Diego Llorente, Liam Cooper and Firpo could make up the defence.

Bielsa may play a three-man defence, though, as was the case against both Everton and Burnley.

In midfield, Kalvin Phillips will be a key figure and is now a mainstay for England – he could be joined by Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich.

Raphinha and Harrison would then take up the wide positions, with Patrick Bamford leading the line.

Potential Leeds XI: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Firpo; Dallas, Phillips, Klich; Raphinha, Harrison, Bamford.

 

6. Our promising post-Viduka record

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the fourth goal, his hat-trick, from a penalty-kick to make the score 4-3 during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For those old enough to remember it, the 4-3 defeat at the hands of Leeds back in 2000/21 was a tough one to take.

It was a day that saw Mark Viduka score all four goals for the hosts, in a low point for Liverpool in an otherwise memorable campaign.

Thankfully, the Reds have lost only once to Leeds since that day almost 21 years ago – a 2-1 defeat at Anfield in that same season.

Aside from that loss, Liverpool have won eight and drawn three of the other 11 meetings, including one in the FA Cup and two in the League Cup.

Ben Woodburn (17 years and 45 days) became the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer in the League Cup clash in 2016 – a record that still stands to this day.

 

7. Craig Pawson is the referee

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2020: Referee Craig Pawson reverses his decision to award Wolverhampton Wanderers a penalty after looking at a replay on the VAR monitor during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Premier League referees aren’t the most popular group of people, with most appointments often met with a groan by supporters.

In the hot-seat for Sunday’s match is Craig Pawson, but Reds fans shouldn’t be feeling too glum about him being in charge.

The 42-year-old refereed Liverpool‘s final-day win over Crystal Palace last season – one that secured Champions League football – and victories against Wolves (twice) and Arsenal were also overseen by him in 2020/21.

That being said, Pawson took charge of the FA Cup defeat at Man United in January and the home league loss to Chelsea, so it’s not all positive!

 

8. Did you know?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 21, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Burnley FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sadio Mane‘s form may have been a talking point of late, but there is no doubt that he is a modern Liverpool legend.

The 29-year-old stands on the brink of a personal milestone for the Reds, with 98 goals to his name in 221 appearances so far.

You wouldn’t bet against Mane joining the 100 club this weekend, adding to his goal in the 1-1 draw at Elland Road back in April.

 

9. Jurgen Klopp is FUMING with FIFA and football authorities

A five-minute opening answer in his press conference on Friday, Klopp once again took aim at FIFA and football’s governing bodies, going as far as to say that they “don’t care about the players” and that “it’s all about money.”

He’s right, of course, especially in the midst of the pandemic. Fabinho and Alisson, had they played in Brazil, wouldn’t have been available for this game anyway – the Brazil match took place on the early hours of Friday morning UK time and this fixture could have been on the Saturday. It’s ridiculous.

 

10. Time to endure more Martin Tyler!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 19, 2020: Former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher (R) and former Manchester United player Gary Neville (L) working for Sky Sports before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This weekend clash is live on Sky Sports Main Event from 4pm (BST) and kickoff is at 4.30pm.

Unfortunately, for those not at the game and watching on UK television instead, the likelihood is that they will have to listen to the increasingly tired Martin Tyler on commentary.

He was once the voice of English football, commentating on legendary moments such as Steven Gerrard’s goal against Olympiakos, but he is now so dull that every set of supporters believe he hates their club.

Gary Neville may even accompany him, making the viewing even more unbearable – the hope is that Jamie Carragher is around to rescue things a little.


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