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
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.
Here’s hoping their winless start continues on Sunday…
2. Productive summer at Elland Road
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.
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!
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.
Virgil van Dijk is fit and took part in training from Thursday onwards.
4. Raphhina in and James’ debut?
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
7. Craig Pawson is the referee
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.
8. Did you know?
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!
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.