Liverpool vs Leeds | Saturday 12th September 2020, 17:30 | Sky Sports
Liverpool’s Premier League title defence starts at Anfield on Saturday evening, playing host to last season’s Championship winners Leeds. The Reds have endured a bit of a rough patch by their high standards dating back to February, winning just seven of their past 15 competitive fixtures (W7-D2-L6), coming as a shock to most after their formidable form starting back in the second half of the 2018/19 season.
Leeds have been backed by many for a strong mid-table finish and find themselves just 2/1 to finish in the top-half – a very low price for a newly-promoted team, which speaks volumes for the potential the Whites have under Marcelo Bielsa in the top-flight.
Leeds probably couldn’t have picked a tougher match-up for their first top-flight encounter in 16 years. Nonetheless, it will be one they will relish, and with Liverpool’s patchy form over the last six months, the visitors will feel they have what it takes to take something away from this game.
Leeds will be fired up after a brilliant campaign last term and will be eager to test themselves with the best. Liverpool’s unbeaten run at home in the league stretches back to April 2017 but Bielsa’s men will feel that this could be one of the best times to face the champions.
Leeds will miss Ben White as he returns to his parent club Brighton but will hope they have found an astute replacement in Robin Koch. They also broke their transfer record that stood for over 20 years to bring Rodrigo over from Valencia.
The Whites’ chance creation was nothing short of sensational last season and this was backed up by their Expected Goals (xG) output standing at 87 – the next highest in the league was 75.
One thing that let the Yorkshire giants down last season was finishing, with Patrick Bamford not providing the clinical edge that would have seen Bielsa’s boys win the league a more comfortable margin. Bielsa will be hoping Rodrigo will help solve that problem.
Leeds look to be starting with a fully fit squad, whilst Liverpool are without Xherdan Shaqiri, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Konstantinos Tsimikas and potentially skipper Jordan Henderson depending on his recovery over the next day or two. There is also news circling that Georginio Wijnaldum may be off to Barcelona to link up with Ronald Koeman so he may have to settle for a place on the bench.
Liverpool have won 25 of their last 26 home matches in the league and while I think Leeds will be a good test for them, I don’t want to bet against them. With the way both teams play, I am expecting an exciting affair between two of England’s most historic clubs.
Mateusz Klich to be carded (9/2 Unibet)
The first area I like is the player cards market. Under Bielsa, Leeds are extremely hard to predict but one thing you can also guarantee from this side is high-intensity and non-stop running from the first minute to the last.
The man who epitomises this is Mateusz Klich. He has started 93 of 94 league games since Bielsa arrived and has become a fans favourite in midfield. He is an all-action midfielder and has been known to rustle players in the past, and this is why I am tempted by the 9/2 Unibet are offering for a Klich card.
Klich has been carded 17 times over the past two seasons and I can see Bielsa telling Leeds to be aggressive in midfield – not that Klich needs that invitation – so I see 9/2 as real good value. He also averaged 1.76 fouls per-game last term – more than any other Leeds player so I make him the most likely candidate to be booked.
Keep tabs on Kalvin Phillips' tackles
The next angle I like surrounds senior England debutant Kalvin Phillips. Phillips put in an impressive display for the Three Lions, managing five tackles and look assured in possession. He averaged 2.6 tackles per-game last season and in Leeds’ only match versus Premier League opposition last season (Arsenal) he managed a staggering nine, and impressed many with a busy but composed performance.
So, the next bet I like is Kalvin Phillips to make four or more tackles at 21/10 and Kalvin Phillips to make five or more tackles at 19/4, both of which are with Ladbrokes.