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Leeds vs. Liverpool betting preview: Revitalised Reds can consign Bielsa’s men to an early crisis

September 9, 2021August 22nd, 2023

Any form of misadventure will be punished by Klopp’s men, especially as their front three are firing on all cylinders, writes Stephen Tudor.

Leeds United’s return to the top-flight last season, after an absence of 16 years, can largely be viewed as a success.

Signing off their campaign with four consecutive wins secured them a top ten berth, while in every respect, Marcelo Bielsa’s side squared up the Premier League’s finest, out-playing their opponents when possible, out-running them almost always. Reflecting their output, Leeds ultimately had seven of the league’s top 100 performing players from a statistical standpoint.

Granted, it’s still early days, but it could be argued that the side that so impressed last term has not yet turned up for 2021/22, or at least there has been only fleeting appearances. Against Manchester United on the inaugural weekend, Leeds looked all at sea, far too often carved open and affording vast swathes of space – in dangerous areas too – that helped their hated adversary to resemble their swashbuckling predecessors of yesteryear. A week later, they gave Everton a memorably good game but were let down horrendously by defensive frailties once again and then at Turf Moor this clever side, coached by a stonewall genius, allowed themselves to be drawn into a fractious, fiery encounter, despite this being Burnley’s best chance of grabbing a point. Which they duly did.

Of course, there are caveats to Leeds’ initial struggle and what’s more, they are substantial ones over and above mere excuses. Adapting to the departure of stalwarts Ezgjan Alioski and Pablo Hernandez will take a little time and the same logic applies to newcomers absorbing the Bielsa’s exacting demands. It’s not as if either, that Leeds were immune to poor defending last term and all told, it didn’t do them too much damage. On seven different occasions they conceded three-plus goals yet still they managed to accrue 59 points, a commendable tally for a promoted outfit.

The last time either Leeds or Liverpool failed to find the net was 15 fixtures ago. Both teams to score at -190 therefore is a great addition to any bet builder.

Even so, a defeat this Sunday to Liverpool would leave winless Leeds flailing and if results elsewhere go a certain way might even have them residing in the bottom three. And then we all know what the experts will say, not to mention the clickbait end of the media.

Furthermore, maybe they will be justified to bring up the ‘crisis’ narrative. Their shot average is after all, down from last season – only marginally, but still – while they have picked up an unwelcome habit of conceding first and giving themselves a mountain to climb. Reflecting all this, Leeds currently have just one player in the league’s top 100 performing players from a statistical standpoint. That’s Raphinha, who is 99th even if he is fabulous to watch.

What should really concern Bielsa is that their visitors on Sunday are presently in exactly the right state of mind to administer this spiraling into early crisis, revitalized as they are after a problematic defence of their crown last season left them a shadow of their usual selves.

A 10-game unbeaten run to the conclusion of that campaign – that included an entertaining 1-1 draw in the corresponding fixture to this one – restored confidence and following a summer of rest for pivotal figures who were beginning to look distinctly jaded, the Reds have begun 2021/22 brightly.

Up front, all four of their familiar attacking options have got off the mark already, and although Roberto Firmino is a doubt as he struggles with a hamstring issue, Jota, Mane and Salah will revel in the spaces Leeds are routinely leaving of late. It’s revealing that the latter two have amassed 25 shots between them to this point, highlighting that their hunger and sharpness have returned.

Mane is +1000 to score at least twice in Yorkshire, a feat he has achieved 15 times previously for Liverpool.

At the back, Joel Matip is busy reminding everyone that Liverpool’s defensive deficiencies last term were not solely down to Virgil Van Dijk’s injury, while the Dutchman himself is managing his recovery well, imperious still at eighty per cent.

Klopp’s midfield meanwhile takes care of itself so long as it’s imbued with copious energy, and despite numerous changes across Liverpool’s opening three games, there’s been no evidence yet of Gini Wijnaldum being missed.

Additionally, the Reds will be buoyed by Andy Robertson slotting back into his full-back role after injury, while on the other flank Trent Alexander-Arnold’s reputational rehabilitation epitomizes his team’s. The 22-year-old has created the most chances of any player in the top-flight, proving even at this nascent juncture that rumours of his demise were not only hopelessly premature, but hopelessly misguided.

Stepping back from the form players and the recent fortunes of each side and concentrating instead of the shared virtues on display this Sunday, it is hard not to anticipate goals and end-to-end drama. Last year’s ridiculous 4-3 classic at Anfield is what can typically happen when a Bielsa creation collides with a Klopp side and frankly, any scoreline is feasible, though Liverpool should be fancied to emerge on top.

So with that in mind, the -113 for Liverpool -0.75 in the Asian handicap is a decent shout.

Don’t discount either, the possibility of a penalty being awarded with Leeds giving away 10 last term and already conceding one this season. The Reds have successfully converted their last 20, which astounds and adds even greater value to the prospect of the visitors scoring first and going on to win the game which is worth backing at -105.

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