Siao Mates Sep 10

Liverpool vs Leeds: A mouth-watering 'shadow boxing match' to relish


 

Having the Premier League defending champions Liverpool take on Championship winners Leeds is one heck of a way to kick off the 2020/2021 season.

 

And it’s not simply because they’re managed by two of the most brilliant tacticians in modern football.

 

It’s also because the two teams have the same high octane, hard-pressing game which no doubt helped them to win their respective league titles.

 

So, how does one go about defeating his own mirror image? 

He needs to stop being himself.

 

I know, I know, this sounds utterly pseudo-philosophical. But the answer is as simple as this: either side needs to abandon their typical style of play.

 

Or they can persist with it and play to a stalemate.

 

For this reason, it’s advantage Liverpool this Sunday.

 

Why? Because Jurgen Klopp is arguably more flexible than Marcelo Bielsa when it comes to adopting different tactics. Remember how Liverpool managed to break down stubborn defences last season? They didn’t just go hammering at the bus all day long – they played long ball like Andy Carroll was still our No.9.

 

And it worked.

 

Bielsa, on the other hand, is renowned for being a stickler to his style of play. Maybe being in the Premiership would evoke a change in heart. 

 

But since when do boomers change their minds?

 

Weakest link

Liverpool – Right back. The defending champions put up a snooze fest against Arsenal in the charity shield, with no one putting in a particularly stellar performance. The worst player on the field, though, was Neco Williams. 

 

The young lad’s got loads of talent, but his inexperience was telling. Sure, that goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stunning, but had Williams gotten his marking and positioning right, the Gabon international would never have gotten enough space to get that shot off.

 

Leeds – It’s no secret that Leeds nearly let the title slip courtesy of woeful finishing that plagued them for most of last season. Bielsa will be counting on new signing Rodrigo to address their profligacy in front of goal, though it is unlikely the Spaniard would make an immediate impact. 

 

WATCH: Rodrigo Moreno reveals why he signed for Leeds

 

Goal-scoring chances during the match will likely be few and far between, and it doesn’t help that Leeds are up against the team with the best league defensive record last season.

 

Players to watch

Liverpool – Takumi Minamino. Liverpool’s first Asian player had an impressive preseason and he’ll definitely be the key to unlocking Leeds’ defence. His movement on and off the ball during the Charity Shield match against Arsenal also showed that he has what it takes to become a world-class forward.

 

WATCH: Highlights of Minamino during Liverpool’s pre-season training

 

Leeds – Kalvin Phillips. A product of the Leeds youth system, Phillips was integral to the team’s successful promotion to the highest stage of English football. Every top team has a player who can pull the strings from the heart of midfield, and this recently minted England international is that person. 

 

Key Battles

Patrick Bamford vs Virgil van Dijk – At 1.85 metres tall, Leeds’ solitary striker Bamford can be a rather imposing presence in the air. He’s also a tireless workhorse who packs a decent shot. But unless the Great Wall of Liverpool (aka van Dijk) is nursing a concussion from that preseason friendly against RB Salzburg, Bamford should not pose much of a threat on his own. Concussions can change the game, okay? Trust us, we Liverpool fans know.

 

Pablo Hernandez vs Fabinho – He might already be 35, but Hernandez hasn’t lost any bit of his creative energy. Usually deployed in the middle, the Spaniard’s clever runs must be effectively plugged by the marauding Fabinho if Liverpool are to deny Leeds scoring opportunities. Hernandez has also played in the EPL before with Swansea, and his prior experience against Liverpool will be useful. 

 

Prediction

On paper, this promises to be a match more mouth-watering than the prospect of seeing Lionel Messi in a Man City jersey. But I have a feeling that both teams will struggle to shake off the preseason rust.

 

WATCH: Liverpool beat Leeds in the 2016 English League Cup quarter-final

 

Expect a frenetic start to the match followed by a lull in excitement as both teams try to impose their style of play on one another. Action to pick up in the second half with Liverpool suddenly realising that they are the defending league champions (trust me, it still has yet to set it). Inspired substitutions in the final third will give Liverpool the edge. I reckon the match will be settled with a late goal.

 

Final score: Liverpool 2 Leeds 1. 

 

Fun facts:

The last time these two sides met in the Premiership, Liverpool’s Ribena-lover James Milner was a 17-year-old Leeds player. 

Leeds have not managed to beat Liverpool in their last eight matches across all competitions.

 

Liverpool have not lost a league match at Anfield since April 23, 2017.

 

Inspiration for Man United’s third kit came from the highly acclaimed 1969 album Abbey Road by The Beatles. The album cover shows Liverpudlians walking over a zebra crossing.

 

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