Reds’ injury myth, missing fans and clash of champions in opening week

Can Liverpool retain the Premier League title? Can Leeds, winner of the Championship crown, survive in the top flight?

The two reigning champions go head-to-head on Sunday (12.30am) in the match of the opening round with Reds fans still wondering if any more new players will be coming in.

So far, Liverpool has only signed a leftback – 24-year-old Greece international Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiacos.

It has made a bid for Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara, a talented midfielder with silky skills. The club and the Spanish international have apparently agreed on terms but the German club wants a higher price before selling.

Liverpool may need to raise the stakes as it faces the prospect of losing Georginio Wijnaldum who is wanted by Barcelona.

While some fans are going crazy over the lack of transfer activity, it is the lack of atmosphere which could hurt Liverpool more than a lack of signings.

Friend and fellow Liverpool fan Prem Kumar, said: “I’m more worried about the team not being able to play in front of the fans. At times last season, we got over the line because of our famous 12th man.

“Remember how City crumbled at Anfield? How the roof came off after Salah’s goal against Manchester United?

“How the singing at Villa Park pushed the boys on … Liverpool without the fans is a monster that can stutter.”

Having said that, Prem is “cautiously confident” of a successful title defence.

One big myth surrounding Liverpool is that the club has been lucky with injuries, particularly its front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberton Firmino.

While it’s true the trio only missed a combined eight league matches, the Reds were hit hard elsewhere.

In the Premier League, goalkeeper Alisson Becker missed nine games (one through suspension), defender Joe Gomez was out for 10 games and captain Jordan Henderson missed eight matches. Henderson may only be fit to start from the bench tomorrow.

Midfielder Naby Keita missed 20 games while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fabinho were out for 10 and eight matches respectively.

There were also injuries to reserve centrebacks Dejan Lovren (who has since left the club) and Joel Matip at crucial times – resulting in midfielders Fabinho and Henderson playing in defence.

Clearly, Liverpool has had its fair share of injuries.

Separately, Leeds marked its return to the top flight after a 16-year absence by signing several talented youngsters.

Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood and Cody Drameh have come onboard while Feyenoord winger Crysencio Summerville is also linked with the Whites.

The club also broke its transfer record last month when it signed Spain forward Rodrigo from Valencia for £26 million (RM138.71 million).

Leeds’ previous record transfer was former England captain Rio Ferdinand, who cost £18 million (RM96.03 million) from West Ham in 2000.

It looks capable of staying up under the astute leadership of Marcelo Bielsa.

Meanwhile, the two Manchester clubs – City and United – have the weekend off due to their exploits in Europe and will only start their season next week.

Another big match is Tottenham vs Everton on Sunday (11.30pm).

Everton made a coup by signing James Rodríguez for only £12 million (RM64.01 million).

The former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich player, top scorer at the 2014 World Cup, has failed to shine since then but there is no doubting his talent.

Here’s to another exciting season.

Fixtures (Malaysian time)
SATURDAY
Fulham vs Arsenal (7.30pm)
Crystal Palace vs Southampton (10pm)

SUNDAY
Liverpool vs Leeds (12.30am)
West Ham vs Newcastle (3am)
West Bromwich Albion vs Leicester (9pm)
Tottenham vs Everton (11.30pm)

TUESDAY
Sheffield United vs Wolves (1am)
Brighton vs Chelsea (3am)

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