The Champions are back!
The Premier League season returns this weekend, and champions Liverpool look to defend their title with an opening day fixture against newly promoted Leeds United.
Leeds, having won the Championship last season, make their return to England's top flight for the first time since 2004. With Marcelo Bielsa at the helm, they face a tough task, away at Anfield to last year's runaway winners Liverpool. Bielsa has been using this make shift pre season to build a team that can survive their first season back in the big time. 9 new signings for his side, including record signing Rodrigo from Valencia for around $35million, should help to build those foundations needed by promoted sides to solidify a Premier League place next season. Leeds will be looking to replicate Sheffield United's success rather than Norwich City's, as the Blades finished 9th with an impressive 54 points, whilst Norwich (as the previous promoted Championship winners) finished bottom of the table with a sad 21 points.
Jurgen Klopp's team are looking to pick up where they left off in the league, having won their final two games, Chelsea (Home) and Newcastle (Away). Whilst not being successful in the Charity Shield against Arsenal, they have bounced back with an impressive preseason win against Blackpool, being 2-1 down at half time and coming back to blow the League 1 side away, finishing the game 7-2. Liverpool are unbeaten at home in the league since April 2017, and since bolstering their defense over the past 2 seasons that looks like an even tougher task for a newly promoted side. The Liverpool side that were crowned champions last season have not changed their roster too much, with Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana leaving for Zenit and Brighton, respectively, and new signing Kostas Tsimikas coming in from Olympiakos.
There are still plenty of transfer rumours flying around, with the prospect of Thiago joining Klopp's midfield, as Wijnaldum heads out. This will still take time as all parties are still figuring logistics and transfer fees out.
With players returning from international duty for the European Nations League, both clubs have a couple of days for training and preparations under their belt. One man who stayed at Liverpool during the break was Mo Salah, who is looking to score in yet another opening day fixture for the Reds, having already scored in his previous three, against Watford, West Ham and Norwich.
As the season begins behind closed doors, with word of fans hopefully being let inside next month, the "normal" match day experience still remains up in the air for both players and fans. We shall see how Liverpool and Leeds both cope with the occasion, but expect a well fought out game.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Keita, Milner, Mane, Firmino, Salah
Score Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Leeds United