10 key things to know ahead of Liverpool vs. Leeds

Liverpool have the incentive of getting to within three points of Man City with a win over Leeds on Wednesday night, as Marcelo Bielsa’s side head to Anfield.

Liverpool vs. Leeds

Premier League (26), Anfield
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
7.45pm (GMT)

The Reds had a weekend to treasure, beating Norwich 3-1 at Anfield and then seeing Tottenham defeat City, as the Premier League title race exploded into life.

Next up is the midweek visit of a struggling Leeds team – one who Liverpool beat 3-0 at Elland Road back in September.

Here are 10 things to know ahead of the match.


1. Difficult second season

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Diogo Jota (L) and Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After strutting into the Premier League as everyone’s second-favourite team, eventually finishing ninth, Leeds have come crashing back down to reality this season.

The Whites have suffered an injury-plagued campaign, losing the likes of Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford for long spells, and they have conceded 50 goals in 24 league games.

Sunday’s 4-2 defeat at home to Man United was the latest setback, and with each passing week, the more a relegation battle looks likely.

Leeds go into the Liverpool game 15th in the table and five points clear of the drop – could the Reds be playing them at a better time?


2. Bielsa on the move?

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Leeds United's manager Marcelo Bielsa during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Bielsa is an almost godlike figure among Leeds supporters, much in the way Klopp is at Liverpool, but his stock has fallen this season.

The Argentine is hugely respected among his peers, but injuries have hampered his side and he has been naive in his tactics, seemingly only wanting to play one, attack-minded way.

Bielsa’s current deal expires at the end of the season and it could be that he decides to bring an end to his time at Elland Road.

Former Salzburg and RB Leipzig boss Jesse Marsch is reportedly seen as a front-runner to replace the 66-year-old, should his exit be confirmed.


3. Potential Leeds XI

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott (L) and Leeds United's Raphael Dias Belloli 'Raphinha' during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As mentioned, Leeds have been badly hit by injuries all season and they will be without numerous key figures on Wednesday evening.

Phillips and Bamford are the two most high-profile absentees.

Captain Liam Cooper is also still missing at the back, while youngsters Leo Hjelde and Sam Greenwood are unavailable, too.

Star man and Liverpool-linked winger Raphinha was dropped for the United game but is expected to start against the Reds.

Robin Koch is out after suffering a concussion against United.

Possible Leeds XI (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Struijk, Llorente, Firpo; Forshaw; Raphinha, Dallas, Klich, James; Gelhardt


4. Who’s out for Liverpool?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 23, 2022: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (L) and Diogo Jota during the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino are Liverpool’s only absentees, having injured themselves in last week’s 2-0 win away to Inter Milan.

Both attackers are touch-and-go to be fit for Sunday’s League Cup final against Chelsea.

Otherwise, Klopp again has the luxury of having a huge group to choose from, with some unfortunate individuals not even making the matchday squad.


5. How could Reds line up?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 19, 2022: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (L) and Mohamed Salah after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp rotated his squad for the Norwich game, making seven changes overall and giving some key figures a much-needed rest.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson should return against Leeds, while Ibrahima Konate may be preferred to Joel Matip at centre-back.

It could be that Matip is seen as the man to partner Virgil van Dijk in the League Cup final instead.

In midfield, Fabinho and Thiago may both come back into the team, while Harvey Elliott could even make it a complete change in the middle of the park.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz again look primed to make up the attack in the absence of Jota and Firmino.

Predicted Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Elliott, Thiago; Salah, Diaz, Mane


6. Jota & Firmino fit for Wembley?

Speaking in Tuesday’s pre-match press conference, Klopp cast doubt over Jota and Firmino’s availability for the final:

“For tomorrow, no chance. And then the final, we will see. I really don’t know in the moment. It would be easier to say ‘no’ now, but we will see.

“They are [pushing], but they were not on the pitch for training, so that’s not a good sign.

“We have to see what we can do with the boys in the next few days, then we make a decision later in the week.”

At least Salah, Diaz and Mane are available, as it stands, with Liverpool’s new-found attacking depth making a world of difference.


7. Strong record vs. Leeds

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool have plenty of reason to feel confident going into the midweek clash, not least their recent record against Leeds.

The Whites haven’t tasted victory against the Reds since back in April 2001, when goals from Rio Ferdinand and Lee Bowyer earned them a 2-1 win at Anfield.

It felt like a devastating moment in Liverpool’s season at the time, but a month or so later they had clinched a cup treble and reached the Champions League for the first time.

In the 11 meetings since Leeds‘ last triumph, the Reds have won on eight occasions and drawn the other three, enjoying almost total dominance in the fixture.


8. Did you know?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 16, 2022: Liverpool's Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It remains to be seen if Matip will start against Leeds, but there is no denying that his availability has been a huge plus-point this season.

The 30-year-old already has 28 starts to his name in 2021/22, which is a welcome contrast to his previous numbers.

In fact, Matip has only started a total of 22 matches over the past two entire seasons combined, making 25 appearances overall.

What a difference a good injury record makes.


9. Oliver named as referee

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson speaks to referee Michael Oliver after the Premier League match at Goodison Park, Liverpool.

Michael Oliver will take charge of Wednesday’s game, with many viewing him as the best referee in the country.

Admittedly, there’s not much competition, but the 36-year-old does invariably do well, despite a horror show in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park last season.

This is the fourth Liverpool game Oliver has refereed in 2021/22, having overseen the 4-0 win at home to Arsenal and the disastrous 1-0 defeat at Leicester in the league.

He also refereed the 0-0 draw with the Gunners in the League Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield last month, sending off Granit Xhaka.


10. Follow TIA’s live blog

Liverpool fans supporters general outside Anfield matchday (Pic by Lindsey Parneby/Propaganda)

As was the case last weekend, Liverpool’s game will not be televised in the UK, due to Champions League action being on at the same time.

That means TIA’s matchday live blog is the best place to follow the match, with Dan Clubbe keeping you entertained from 7pm (GMT).

Kickoff is at 7.45pm.