Jurgen Klopp insisted Liverpool “knew before the game” that the campaign would be tough, with his side taken to the wire by Marcelo Bielsa’s newly-promoted Leeds.
The Reds scraped through for a first three points of the season in an end-to-end contest, as champions of the Premier League took on champions of the Championship in a 4-3 thriller.
They certainly weren’t at their best, particularly defensively, but as Klopp reflected on the win in his post-match press conference he suggested this was a situation his side would need to get used to.
“How difficult the season will be, we knew before the game,” he explained.
“If it is a good example for the season, this specific game, I don’t know, because Leeds are special. I said it before the game and in the game everybody saw it obviously.
“I know how people are and it’s completely fine, really fine and absolutely OK; they say Leeds performed outstandingly well and how can these mistakes happen?
“These kind of things that everybody is saying after games like this. We are not like this because we respect them a lot and I knew they would cause us problems.
“On top of that, we struggled in some defensive situations obviously, that’s why they scored.”
Fortunately, Salah was on hand to bail out the likes of Van Dijk and Joe Gomez, who were worryingly slack as the season began, and the manager praised his No. 11 for his overall contribution.
“First and foremost, congratulations to him because he’s a very special player. A very, very special player,” the manager said.
“The numbers tell the story a little bit, all the rest around you probably don’t know.
“Today is a very good example. Yes, he put three more goals on his score list but the performance around was absolutely exceptional in a game like this.
“So he deserved the goals today, 100 percent.
“Yes, two were penalties—one was a sensational finish—but he deserved these goals because he was constantly pressing and present, caused the opponent massive problems, was top in one-on-one situations, played football.
“Of all the good performances Mo had for us obviously, this was for sure one of the better ones.
“So he should be proud of that because it’s very special to have these kind of numbers. ‘Long may it continue,’ I like to think in these moments, and this time I say it as well.”
Mohamed Salah took great satisfaction in helping Liverpool get off to a winning start in the Premier League by netting a hat-trick against Leeds United.
The Egyptian took possession of the match ball after the 4-3 thriller at Anfield on Saturday to open the 2020-21 campaign.
Salah secured the three points in the 88th minute of the contest from the penalty spot, having opened the scoring from 12 yards out before grabbing a second with a thunderous strike.
⚽️ M O ⚽️ S A L A H ⚽️ #LIVLEE https://t.co/l6zxvzNda8— LFC (Liverpool FC) 12th Sep 18:30
Speaking to Sky Sports after the final whistle, the No.11 said: “Without fans it's so tough – especially at Anfield, everybody knows that. But it's a good start for us.
“A tough team, they press high as well, so the intensity was really high. We had a good game.
“We shouldn't have conceded three but this is the game, we have to react for that and we did a good job.
“It's a tough team, to be fair. They had a great game. There's no fans but they play, they react really well and they scored three goals against us – that's huge.
“I'm happy about the result and we have to keep on improving and try not to concede as many goals.”
Mohamed Salah's hat-trick handed Liverpool a winning start to the new Premier League season as they edged a thrilling clash with newly-promoted Leeds United 4-3 at Anfield.
Five of the goals came during an open, topsy-turvy first half, with the Reds going ahead three times – twice through Salah and once Virgil van Dijk – sandwiching responses by Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford.
Mateusz Klich restored parity for a third time after the break, but the hosts won a second penalty of the game with two minutes remaining and Salah guided it home to ensure a hard-fought victory on the opening day.
It was a 60th consecutive home league game unbeaten for Jürgen Klopp’s team, who kicked off their defence of the title in dramatic fashion.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson came into the starting XI after their returns from injuries, while Naby Keita got the nod in central midfield.
Reigning champions Liverpool started with intent and the contest was only two minutes old when Keita fashioned a clear-cut opportunity.
Having carried the ball to the edge of the Leeds box, the No.8 slipped a cute pass around Pascal Struijk and into the run of Roberto Firmino, who unselfishly tried to pull it back into the middle for a teammate but allowed the visitors to clear.
The breakthrough arrived within seconds, however.
Salah’s blasted effort inside the area struck the arm of Robin Koch and the referee immediately awarded a penalty that the Egyptian unerringly walloped down the middle to put the Reds in front.
Helder Costa put the ball in the net for Leeds from an offside position on eight minutes, but they were level for real on 12.
Dribbling inside off the left touchline, Harrison ducked between Alexander-Arnold and the recovering Joe Gomez before clinically shoving a low shot inside Alisson Becker’s near post.
The early exchange of goals proved a taster of what would become an increasingly frenetic first half – and Liverpool got ahead for a second time in the 20th minute.
Robertson’s curling corner from the left-hand side picked out the run of Van Dijk and the Dutchman’s firm header could not be kept out by Leeds ‘keeper Illan Meslier.
Meslier did prevent a third soon after, though, crucially reacting to tip the ball over the goalframe when Struijk’s attempted clearance somehow looped up and drifted towards the top corner.
Yet, there were still two more goals before the interval as the pattern continued.
On the half-hour mark, a ball over the top of the Liverpool defence created hesitancy and Van Dijk’s touch presented Bamford with the chance to get in between the No.4 and Alisson and tap a finish across the latter for 2-2.
But the Reds promptly regained a lead they would hold until half-time; Leeds could only partly clear a free-kick and Salah produced a stunningly graceful piece of technique, teeing himself up with his right foot and thumping a rising shot into the roof of the net with his left.
Liverpool created several promising openings when the sides returned, with Meslier called into action just four minutes after the restart.
Intricate approach work by Keita and Firmino saw the latter square from the right channel to the back post, where Georginio Wijnaldum touched and shot but was denied by the goalkeeper.
Next, Van Dijk headed just off target from Alexander-Arnold’s corner, but then the Reds had to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Harrison broke onto a diagonal in behind the Liverpool backline from deep and deftly lifted the ball up and over Alisson towards the goal; Alexander-Arnold got to it in time, only to send his attempted header away into his own net. Fortunately, the offside flag had been raised.
As the hour mark neared, Klopp sent on Fabinho for Keita – and Curtis Jones would soon replace Henderson in central midfield, too – while Sadio Mane swept a strike too high from a breakaway with Salah.
And at the three-quarter point of the match, Leeds levelled yet again.
In possession on the right flank, Costa spotted the forward burst of Klich into the area and he emphatically controlled the pass and rifled it into the left corner.
Kalvin Phillips was close with a swerving free-kick from 25 yards that had Alisson diving with concern, and Van Dijk had a close-range finish chalked off for a foul in the build-up.
It appeared Firmino would win it for Liverpool four minutes from time but his effort inside the area was blocked, and instead Salah became the hero.
Substitute Fabinho was felled by Rodrigo Moreno as he tried to plot a route to goal and up stepped Salah to seal a hat-trick and three points for the champions.
Salah became the first Liverpool player in history to score on the opening day of a league campaign for four consecutive years, following up his goals against Watford (2017), West Ham United (2018) and Norwich City (2019).
Leeds United returned to the Premier League with a bang but were beaten 4-3 by champions Liverpool in a thrilling encounter at Anfield.
Liverpool found themselves in front three times but were pegged back by a ruthless Leeds, who took the step up to the elite level in their stride. However, a late Mohamed Salah penalty - to seal his hat-trick - handed the hosts maximum points.
Salah also scored the first of his treble from the penalty spot after Leeds new-boy Robert Koch handled (4), but Jack Harrison scored an exquisite equaliser (12). Virgil van Dijk thumped home a header (20) only for Patrick Bamford to take advantage of a Van Dijk slip to level the game once again (30).
Salah then fired home a spectacular strike (32) as Liverpool took control, yet, Mateusz Klich equalised for the third time (66). The game looked to be drawing to a quiet conclusion but Leeds' new signing Rodrigo inexplicably fouled Fabinho inside the box and Salah stroked home from the spot.How Reds edged chaotic encounter...
In the first touchline meeting between Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa, it was Liverpool who dominated the tactical battle in the opening exchanges as Roberto Firmino got behind the visitors' defence after just 90 seconds but could not find the finish.Team news
Skipper Jordan Henderson was passed fit for Liverpool. He was joined in midfield by Georginio Wijnaldum, despite recent speculation surround the Dutchman’s future at Anfield. Patrick Bamford kept his place in the starting XI, with new signing Rodrigo on the bench. Robin Koch was handed a debut his debut for Marcelo Bielsa's side.
The hosts continued to exploit the gaps in Leeds' defensive shape and Salah's strike deflected up off Koch's knee onto his arm. Referee Michael Oliver was well placed and awarded the penalty kick - a decision Sky Sports commentator Jamie Carragher called "harsh". Salah stepped up and fired home his first of the season in just the fourth minute.Player Ratings
Liverpool: Alisson (5), Alexander-Arnold (5), Gomez (6), Van Dijk (4), Robertson (7), Henderson (6), Wijnaldum (6), Keita (4), Salah (8), Firmino (6), Mane (5)
Subs: Jones (N/A), Fabinho (N/A)
Leeds: Meslier (7), Ayling (6), Koch (5), Struijk (5), Dallas (6), Phillips (7), Klich (8), Harrison (8), Hernandez (6), Costa (7), Bamford (7)
Subs: Rodrigo (4), Roberts (N/A)
Man of the match: Mohamed Salah
The early setback did not dent Leeds' confidence going forward with a Kalvin Phillips pass slicing open the Liverpool defence on 12 minutes. Harrison collected the pass in his stride and showed remarkable touch and guile to beat both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez before firing a powerful finish into the corner for 1-1.More on this story
Leeds remained naive in their defensive approach as a set-piece proved their downfall on 20 minutes. Koch's nightmare first involvement in the Premier League got worse as he allowed Van Dijk the run on him from a left-wing corner and the Dutchman's powerful header could not be kept out.
The 'you score, we score' vibe did not let up as Leeds were level again 10 minutes later. A ball over the top was arrogantly dealt with by Van Dijk, who could only prod a half-baked clearance into the path of Bamford. The former Chelsea striker clipped a nice finish over Alisson and perhaps now the game would settle down.Image: Marcelo Bielsa on the touchline at Anfield
Liverpool were back in front within 90 seconds.
Some more questionable defending from Leeds following a free-kick that was launched into their area dropped to Salah about 18 yards out and he thrashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner.
Leeds remained in a brave mood after the break with, at times, Liverpool outnumbering attackers to defenders on the counter attack. Despite the openings, the fourth goal did not come for the hosts.
Georginio Wijnaldum drew a smart stop from Illan Meslier on 49 minutes and Sadio Mane blazed over after a superb one-two with Salah five minutes later.
Leeds punished that waywardness in front of goal with another well-executed equaliser with their third shot on target. Helder Costa swung a low ball into the box that included five Leeds attackers. The ball fell to Klich, who collected the ball into his stride and fired a dynamic finish into the far corner.Image: Mateusz Klich celebrates his goal
Most clubs would be happy with a 3-3 at Anfield, but not Leeds. Phillips curled an almost-perfect free-kick from 30 yards inches wide of the post as both teams hunted a winner. Van Dijk thought he had netted his second of the evening but his close-range finish from an Andy Robertson centre was chalked off for an infringement by substitute Curtis Jones on Koch.
Leeds looked likely to hold on but a lazy challenge by substitute Rodrigo on Fabinho inside the box handed Salah the chance to win it from the spot with two minutes left. The effervescent Egyptian made no mistake.
Plenty of plaudits and many things to take from their Anfield experience, but no points for Leeds.Man of the match: Mohamed Salah
"He's looked the sharpest of Liverpool's front three," said Carragher. It was hard to argue.
No player had more touches of the ball than Salah (83), highlighting just how involved he was in everything Liverpool did going forward. Along with his three goals he also made four key passes - no player made more.
Salah told Sky Sports: "It was at times so tough to play, especially here at Anfield without the fans. They pressed well and their intensity was really high. We had a good game. We shouldn't have conceded three but overall we did a good job. They're a tough team and they reacted really well. They scored three goals against us so we have to keep improving."
Usually the hat-trick scorer in a victory would be an automatic selection for the outstanding player award but this was a close call. Harrison and Klich produced important moments of quality for Leeds, while Phillips stood out in the heart of their midfield on his first Premier League start.What the managers said
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: "What a game, what an opponent, what a performance from both teams. A proper spectacle, I loved that.
"It is pretty rare you see that many goals in a game, we have left space for improvement in our defending but that is not unusual for a first game. Our players have played a few days ago for their countries so it is possible.
"The opponent forced us to make mistakes, we can do better, we will do better but I loved a lot about the game against a well-organised, passionate side like Leeds. We used our skills to cause them problems, we could have scored more and in the end we used set-pieces which is fine by me.
"It is not like riding a bike, you can lose something in pre-season and it takes time to all come together again. I am really positive about this game. Leeds will have a good season if they can keep up that intensity and they did it in the Championship with more games so why not?"4:35 Post match reaction from Jurgen Klopp
Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa: "It was a just defeat. Liverpool made it hard for us to neutralise them.
"In the second half especially we struggled to get the ball from defence to attack.
"We also stopped Liverpool playing like they usually do and we made a lot of effort. During large parts of the game we were able to match them."4:03 Marcelo Bielsa said Liverpool deserved to win 'Leeds have made a statement'
Sky Sports' Graeme Souness:
"For 80 minutes, Leeds were fantastic. But in the last 10, Liverpool pinned them back and it was only a matter of time before someone made a mistake or someone came up with a piece of brilliance. But Leeds have made a real statement tonight.
"I wonder if they've got a big enough squad as they surely can't play like that every time as it was some effort. Liverpool weren't at their best because Leeds didn't allow it. Liverpool normally hunt teams down like Leeds did to them.
"Tonight, Leeds had more possession at Anfield than Liverpool and I don't think I've ever seen that before with this Liverpool team."Analysis: Bielsa makes his introduction
Sky Sports' Adam Bate:
"It would be easy to summarise the subsequent 4-3 defeat at Liverpool as Leeds United's introduction to the harsh realities of the Premier League. But after such a rousing display from the newly-promoted side, this felt more like the Premier League's introduction to Bielsa."
Klopp's men have a tasty fixture with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to focus on next Sunday, a game live on Sky Sports. Leeds welcome Hull City in the Carabao Cup in midweek before hosting Fulham in their first home game back in the Premier League next Saturday.
Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold start for Liverpool in today’s Premier League opener against Leeds United at Anfield.
The pair return from injury to take their places in the champions’ XI for the first game of 2020-21.
Elsewhere, Divock Origi is named among the seven substitutes on the bench.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita, Mane, Salah, Firmino.
Subs: Adrian, Fabinho, Milner, Jones, Minamino, Origi, Matip.
Liverpool FC Women's Rinsola Babajide is looking forward to her first senior England camp next week – but not before targeting three points with the Reds first.
Vicky Jepson's team travel to face London Bees on Sunday after opening their FA Women's Championship campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Durham last weekend.
Babajide provided the assist for Rachel Furness' strike in that game and believes there is plenty more to come from the team.
"We've had a good training week and we're looking to learn the lessons from last week," she told Liverpoolfc.com.
"Everyone was a bit deflated after the game and we knew our performance wasn't up to our standards and where we want to push on to.
"We're ready to get going but we certainly won't underestimate London Bees."
A win on Sunday would cap a positive week for the 22-year-old, who has been called up to the Lionesses' 30-player training camp by manager Phil Neville.
The England group will meet up for a week at St. George's Park on Tuesday and Babajide is looking forward to making her mark.
"It was a really proud moment for myself and my family," she said. "It's an honour to be called up and these are the moments I play football for, to play with the best of the best.
"I know a few of the players from playing with England at U18, U19 and U20s level and I've also played against some of them. I'm also looking forward to seeing Niamh [Charles] again.
"I want to be like a sponge and go there and learn from the more experienced players, but I'm there as a competitor to work hard and show them what I can do.
"I want to cement my place and make sure I can get in the next squad and the one after that."
LFC Women take on London Bees at The Hive stadium on Sunday at 2pm (behind closed doors).
With the start of the 2020/21 Premier League season almost upon us, we take a look at what’s new ahead of the campaign.
Liverpool thumped Blackpool 7-2 in their final pre-season friendly of the summer, prior to Saturday’s visit of Leeds.
The league season begins at a later date due to the outbreak of coronavirus, arguably making it an even more anticipated event.
While much remains the same in the Premier League this season, there are still plenty of new additions to look forward to.Promoted sides
The most exciting promoted outfit are Leeds, who return to the top flight after 16 years away, managed by the much-heralded Marcelo Bielsa.
Matches against the Reds have always had a bit of spice to them, so Saturday’s imminent curtain-raiser is an eye-catching way for both to start the campaign.
West Brom and Fulham are also back in the big time – can they defy the odds and secure survival?New signings
The transfer window is open until October 5, leaving plenty of time for new arrivals to come in.
That’s not to say there haven’t already been noticeable purchases, however, with Liverpool’s rivals all strengthening.
Chelsea have acquired Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who are significant pieces of business, not to mention Hakim Ziyech, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell, too.
Leaving Stamford Bridge is Willian, who has joined the Mikel Arteta revolution at Arsenal.
The Reds themselves have brought in Kostas Tsimikas – the hope is that Thiago Alcantara will be the next man through the door.
As mentioned, the addition of Bielsa to the Premier League should be fascinating.
The Argentine is regarded as one of the most influential managers of his generation, with Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola both big admirers.
Bielsa has got Leeds playing an entertaining brand of high-intensity, attacking football, so Liverpool will need to be wary this weekend.
Meanwhile, Scott Parker is considered one of English football’s brightest young managers, so it will be intriguing to see how he fares with a talented Fulham side.New Rules
There will be tweaks in the rules this season, as is always the case.
Perhaps most pleasing is the decision not to continue the five substitute rule that was implemented during the end of 2019/20, instead returning to the usual three.
There will also no longer be drinks breaks, which made summer games horribly disjointed at times.
VAR is sure to find itself in the headlines on a weekly basis again, but changes have been made to (hopefully) alleviate the technology’s shortcomings.
Referees will now be encouraged to use pitchside monitors in order to make decisions, while accidental handball will now only be penalised if it prevents a goal or an obvious goalscoring chance.New kits
Liverpool will strut into the new season in their impressive Nike kit, having ended their long association with New Balance earlier in the year.
There are other new strips doing the rounds away from Anfield, though.
Telecommunications company Three are sponsoring Chelsea, with their logo in the centre of the shirt reminding the Blues of where their highest possible finish is this season!
In fairness, Everton‘s new hummel strip looks nice, and Sheffield United’s latest effort is a strong contribution.
But wait until you see that new United third kit…New Ball
Another year, another new ball that promises to be unlike anything seen in football history!
Nike’s latest invention, the Flight ball, apparently “offers improved aerodynamics through a revolutionary ball design” – in other words, goalkeepers are going to find it even harder to preserve their dignity.
It can cost you as much as £124.95 on Nike’s official website, should you want to buy it for your five-a-side game.
Then again, the likelihood of firing it into a nearby hedge surely makes that a risky purchase.
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Visit our Match Centre now to follow all of the build-up, action and reaction from Anfield as Liverpool face Leeds United in the Premier League.
The slate is clean with a new season upon us, one which is set to see various milestones reached and more records on the table as Liverpool aim to keep the good times rolling.
The 2019/20 season was a remarkable one for Jurgen Klopp’s men as the long wait for a league title was brought to an end in a campaign which saw a total of three trophies added to the cabinet and a myriad of records tumble.
And while it will live long in the memory, it is now time to firmly cast all eyes to the 2020/21 season – one which presents yet another opportunity to add another successful chapter to the story.
Not to mention a chance to clinch the records which the Reds narrowly missed out on last season.
It is set to be another thrilling campaign with twists and turns in abundance and here are the records and milestones which are on the card for Liverpool in 2020/21.A Red Century for the King
Mohamed Salah needs only six goals to hit the 100-goal milestone for Liverpool in all competitions. He would be the 17th player in club history to achieve the feat.
And he is 37 goals away from breaking into the Reds’ all-time top 10 goalscorers list, while finding the net seven more times in the Premier League would see him break into the top flight’s top 50.Another 100
A century of goals for the Reds is also on Sadio Mane‘s radar with 81 currently to his name – if he were to achieve the feat he would sit alongside Kevin Keegan on 100.
The Reds can become the first side with 90-plus points in three successive Premier League seasons after notching 97 and 99 in 2018/19 and 2019/20 respectively.Quick off the Mark
Salah can also become only the second player to score on the opening day in four consecutive Premier League seasons, following in the footsteps of Teddy Sheringham (1992-93 to 1995-96).
Henderson has made a total of 364 Liverpool appearances and needs only 36 more to hit 400, an incredible tally which would make the skipper the club’s 27th all-time top appearance-maker.
Potenital Milestone Appearances
100: Alisson (currently 89), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (87)
150: Divock Origi (140), Trent Alexander-Arnold (134), Virgil van Dijk (123), Joel Matip (111), Joe Gomez (110)
200: Gini Wijnaldum (187), Sadio Mane (171), Mohamed Salah (153)
250: Roberto Firmino (245), James Milner (215)
The chance to go unbeaten at Anfield for the fourth consecutive Premier League season is firmly on the table.
Liverpool’s current record stands at 59 games and another unbeaten home campaign would take the streak to 78, moving the Reds within striking distance of Chelsea‘s record of 86 set from February 2004 – October 2008.19 Home Victories
The Reds fell agonisingly short last season after succumbing to a 1-1 draw with Burnley to see them equal the record of 55 points from 57, joining Chelsea (2005/06), Man United (2010/11) and Man City (2011/12), and now they have the chance to go one better and make the record their own.
19 Successive Wins
Another shot at redemption rests with securing 19 consecutive Premier League victories, which would set a new all-time record.
The 3-0 defeat at Watford ensured Liverpool’s 18-game winning streak came to a grinding halt last season.Assist Machines Eye Top 100
Andy Robertson, currently with 32, needs to set up three more Premier League goals to break into the competition’s top 100 all-time assists list, while Trent Alexander-Arnold needs to add nine to his total of 26.Centurions
Liverpool narrowly missed out on eclipsing the 100-point mark on their way to the title and it will be a tough ask this season, but the record is still well and truly on the line.
Formidable Collection of 3 Points
Another joint record came Liverpool’s way with 32 Premier League victories in 2019/20, and now another chance at making it 33, the most wins in a single season, is on the table.Victories on the Road
And they’ll have to dig deep once more to better that to either equal (16) or set a new record (17+) on the road.Top-Flight Goal Milestone
Sharing the Load
18 different scorers in the league this season would break the club record of 17 set in 2019/20.Seeing Double
Klopp’s men notched a new club record of 13 league ‘doubles’ in a single season in 2019/20, which equalled the English top-flight record – and now the challenge is to make the record their own with 14 the target.
‘Stay humble, stay focused and work even harder’ is how Jordan Henderson believes Liverpool will approach the start of the 2020-21 season.
The Reds kick off the new term with an Anfield encounter against Leeds United this evening as they begin their defence of the Premier League title.
The message from Melwood has been consistent – and Henderson has echoed the sentiment that past achievements will have no influence on what unfolds this time around.
Indeed, the captain insists only by working even harder will Liverpool have an opportunity for further success.
Writing in his first programme notes of 2020-21, Henderson stated: “When I think back to what has served us well in the past, it’s been that mindset to only focus on what’s immediately in front of you. As a player that starts with training. Turn up at Melwood each day and be ready to work. Eat the right things, listen to the medical staff and fitness coaches to do the right preparation and then treat each session as an opportunity to be better and learn as much as you can.
“With matches it’s about keeping the focus entirely on the here and now. What can I affect now? What impact can I have in this exact moment to help the team?
“Don’t look beyond the immediate challenge, only think about winning the things you can in this exact moment. This means focusing entirely on winning your first tackle, making your first pass, winning the header, being faster and stronger than your opponent in those individual tussles, being competitive in those personal battles and collective ones.
“It’s part and parcel of our professional lives that so much external emphasis will be placed on looking ahead, making predictions and setting expectations. It’ll be exactly the same for Leeds United, I’m sure. They enjoyed a fantastic season and were worthy champions in their league. It was a brilliant achievement for them, but I’m sure it wasn’t that long after they were being asked to predict how this next season would go, how would they compete in the Premier League and so on.
“As I’ve said, it’s fine for people externally to debate and discuss this – it’s what makes football such an engrossing topic. But as players it is your responsibility to deliver on the pitch and you have to block out any distractions that don't help.
“Along with Leeds, we’ve had nice things said and written about us in the past weeks and months, and of course in those moments it’s good. But none of it matters or helps when the whistle goes this afternoon to begin this new campaign. All 20 teams start on the same number of points – zero. Nothing from the past season is carried over. And that suits us just fine.
“I look at our team and a defining feature is we have all scrapped and fought for everything we have in our professional lives. Nothing has been given to anyone in our dressing room. Nothing has been easy. Everything has been earned. So that makes it possible to keep the mentality fixed on improvement and pushing ourselves at all times.
“Working harder is the only way for us, whether we are in a good moment or a bad moment. You get through difficult moments if you work harder – and you make good moments better if you work hard.
“The gaffer talks about the importance of staying humble, as individuals, as a team and as a club. Part of staying humble is recognising that this season begins with everyone in exactly the same position.
“We have no advantage over Leeds today before a whistle is blown. If we want an advantage in the game – on the pitch – we have to go and earn it. As I said at the beginning of this column, everything is reset to zero.
“If we want to create special memories, they need to be earned, one challenge at a time, one sprint at a time, one save at a time and one battle at a time. It is right to be optimistic about what is ahead for us, but that feeling is built on a belief that we will indeed stay humble and stay focused.”
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Jürgen Klopp described the 2020-21 season as a ‘wonderful opportunity’ for Liverpool as he vowed his team will fight with all they have to once again secure silverware.
The Reds kick off their defence of the Premier League title by welcoming newly-promoted Leeds United to Anfield this evening.
However, Klopp has underscored the message that has emanated from within the camp ever since they returned to training in August, insisting the achievements that went before will count for nothing once the new term gets up and running.
Writing in his first edition of programme notes for the campaign, the manager explained: “I view this coming season as a wonderful opportunity. I’m sure there’ll be lots of talk about pressure and expectation, on us specifically. But so what! That’s not new, it’s been constant.
“It’s not about what other people think or want – it’s about what we want, and about what we are prepared to do about it!
“I look at my team and my staff and I see a group of people who are humble and ready. They embrace the culture of ‘let’s go again’.
“I use the word ‘opportunity’ because it’s critical. Everything is possible over the course of the next 38 Premier League matches, plus games in the domestic cups and Europe. Nothing will be given to us and we start with no advantage or headstart. Everyone is on the start line in exactly the same position. This suits us fine, perfect in fact. There is no pole position because of previous achievements. Again, perfect, this is ideal for our culture and our mentality.
“Look at our team and look at their stories. These are people who embrace the challenge. They have faced adversity and come through it. All their lives they have had hurdles in front of them. But until now, they have been pretty good at clearing them.
“It is not hard to find new energy each season when you have the professional culture our players have. They were and remain the mentality monsters. It is a myth that we have needed setbacks to find our energy and motivation in the past.
“Yes, striking back when suffering a knock was and will remain part of our make-up, I don’t deny this and I don’t want to lose it. We will 100 per cent need it – both during games and definitely during the season. The ability to get up off the canvas and keep punching is important. It comes from within this team and from deep within the fabric of this club.
“But ‘striking back’ is only part of it. The truth is we didn’t ‘need’ setbacks but we did ‘use’ them to our advantage. It is just about our situation. We react to it, whatever that situation is. We have had many different situations during our period together, a lot of them positive – most of them positive in fact. So we find energy in all places. This is what we do: identify the next challenge and go for it with all we have.
“The energy is there because we treat each day, each challenge, each session, each game as an opportunity. Something new to attack. Fresh and exciting. It’s never about keeping hold of something. Defending something?! That doesn’t work for us – that’s regressive. The only thing we defend is our goal. Everything else we attack!
“We are about forward momentum. Fresh energy, new energy. What can we achieve now? We take no energy by looking at previous league tables, no matter how recent! No energy from previous records set – pride and satisfaction maybe, but not new energy. Look at the league table before a ball is kicked in this year’s competition and that brings the motivation we need. It’s a blank canvas, a chance to paint something new and wonderful if we are minded to and, crucially, if we are prepared to work hard enough to do it.
“We will find energy in our work. Energy in our room for further improvement and further development. Of course it is going to be hard, really hard. Trust me when I tell you nobody understands this better than us as a coaching staff and as a team. But it’s always been hard.
“We are Liverpool and this is the Premier League. When was it easy – and who wants easy? We can have easy when our careers are over if we so wish.
“My players are fighters and warriors. They know they can achieve new memories only by giving all they have, individually and collectively, in each moment, by not looking back or too far ahead. Yes, we are about looking forward, but what’s right in front of you in the here and now is enough.
“Today, for all of us with a Liverpool heart, it is Leeds United. So for those who appear on the teamsheet today – and even those who don’t – there is work to do. Focus on Leeds and today and nothing else. And that is enough for us. Fighting to win this one game, today, is all the focus and energy we need right now. It is all we can affect.
“Of course, we will still be missing one energy source in the stadium – as will all clubs for the moment – and that is the supporters. But even though they are not in the seats where we can hear and see them, they are still watching, so we can feel them with us. That is enough for us to know we have a duty to perform and work harder for them.
“We can be here in this moment and they cannot, so we embrace that responsibility and hopefully show it through our performance.”
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