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Champion Liverpool not looking beyond tricky opener

Sports

Jurgen Klopp is well aware of the threat Leeds United pose as Liverpool begin their Premier League title defence on Saturday.

Liverpool won the top flight for the first time in 30 years last term, landing their first championship in the Premier League era in a dominant campaign.

They now face a battle to hold on to their crown, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea all tipped to challenge.

But Reds manager Klopp is not looking beyond the match against Leeds, who have returned to the top tier as Championship winners after 16 years away.

“We don’t have to think of the whole season,” Klopp said. “We have to think about Leeds. That’s enough to think about. Leeds are a Premier League club with a Premier League team quality-wise. It’s a world-class manager with a very intense idea of football. That’s what I’m thinking about and not too much about the rest of the season.”

He added of a “defence” of their title: “We must attack. We all start from the same position. No games, no points.”

Leeds are boosted, too, by the news of Marcelo Bielsa’s one-year contract extension for the coming campaign.

The former Argentina coach led Leeds back to the Premier League last term after failing in the play-offs in his first season in England.

“It isn’t of importance [why the contract has taken so long],” he said ahead of Friday’s confirmation. I have been working 100 per cent since we were promoted. The club, the fans, the players, they all deserve to be playing in the Premier League.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Liverpool – Roberto Firmino

Firmino did not score a league goal at Anfield last season until the champions’ final home match against Chelsea. He will hope for a faster start this time, with an early strike surely key to a big season alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Leeds United – Liam Cooper

Leeds were not able to re-sign Ben White, while Robin Koch may need some time to settle. That means there will be extra pressure on captain Cooper at centre-back. There can be few tougher tests first up than against this settled Liverpool front line.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Liverpool are unbeaten in their past eight games against Leeds in all competitions (6-2-0) since a 1-2 defeat in April 2001 in the Premier League.

– Leeds have played more Premier League matches on matchday one without losing than any other team in the competition’s history (7-5-0 in 12 matches), while Liverpool have won six of their past seven games on opening day, scoring 15 goals in their four under Jurgen Klopp (3-1-0).

– Only two newly promoted sides have won away at the reigning champions on matchday one in top-flight history: Notts County against Aston Villa in 1981-82 and West Brom versus Arsenal in 1931-32.

– Liverpool have only been beaten once on the opening day of a top-flight season when they are reigning champions in 18 previous attempts (12-5-1), losing 0-2 against West Brom in the 1923-24 campaign.

– Salah is looking to become the second player to score on matchday one in four consecutive Premier League seasons after Teddy Sheringham (1992-93 to 1995-96). No Liverpool player has ever scored on matchday one in four straight campaigns in their league history.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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