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Leeds will attempt to take the game to the opposition as they invariably do, so this could be an open, entertaining contest with attacks coming out on top.
Over 3.5 (-162)
|Leeds United vs Liverpool|
|What||Leeds United vs Liverpool|
|Where||Elland Road, Leeds, England|
|When||Monday, 19 April 2021, 3.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
Liverpool and Leeds United served up a treat on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. Marcelo Bielsa’s newly-promoted side may have been visiting the home of the champions, but they were not daunted and came out all guns blazing. As we have seen since then, that was not a one-off.
Liverpool needs to collect all three points to boost their top-four bid, while an attack-minded Leeds side will want to take another scalp after last weekend’s victory over Manchester City. The result could be a high-scoring game with more than 3.5 goals in total.
Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League in midweek, as a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid was not enough to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg. Things might have turned out differently at Anfield had the Reds converted one of their chances in the opening 45 minutes, but in truth, the damage was done in the Spanish capital the previous week.
There is no time for Liverpool to feel sorry for themselves. They can no longer win a trophy this season, but it is vital that Jurgen Klopp’s side finish in the top four. Last weekend’s 2-1 win against Aston Villa was crucial in that regard, with the Reds now just three points short of the final Champions League qualification spot. They are more than capable of overcoming that margin in the remaining seven games.
That is not to say they will, however. Liverpool is battling Leicester City, Chelsea, West Ham United, and Tottenham Hotspur for two places behind the Manchester clubs. The reigning champions have won each of their last three matches, but their inconsistency in 2021 means another downturn cannot be ruled out.
Monday’s meeting with Leeds could go a long way to defining Liverpool’s season. Victory would not only show that they are over the aggregate defeat by Madrid, but it would also set Klopp’s team up nicely for a relatively favorable schedule at the end of the season.
This has been a magnificent season for Leeds. Given the size of the club – the Whites are three-time English champions – and the profile of their manager, it is easy to forget that Leeds was only promoted back to the Premier League last season. The debates over Bielsa’s dogmatic approach and his refusal to compromise on his beliefs have at times afforded too little focus to the fact that Leeds was in the Championship less than 12 months ago.
By any measure, it is a fine achievement to have a newly promoted team challenging for a top-half finish at this stage of the campaign. At the time of writing Leeds are 10th in the table, level on points with Arsenal in ninth and only four behind Tottenham in seventh. The club’s supporters have not had to worry about relegation all season long. Given the budget he has to work with, Bielsa has done a superb job to keep demotion fears at bay.
Leeds were once one of the most disliked clubs in English soccer, but their attacking, enterprising style has made them a favorite of the neutrals. They had to show different qualities in last weekend’s 2-1 triumph over Manchester City, with Liam Cooper’s first-half sending-off necessitating a change of approach. Leeds was still bolder than many other teams would have been in that position, though, and it was hard to begrudge them their win at the Etihad Stadium.
That 4-3 loss to Liverpool on the weekend set the tone for what was to come. Leeds are the Premier League’s entertainers, but the calls for Bielsa to adopt a more pragmatic edge ignore the fact that it is his very methods that have got them challenging for a place in the top half of the Premier League.
Leeds have scored 49 goals this season and conceded the same amount. That means their matches have featured 98 goals in total – a tally that exceeds every other club in the division. Bielsa instructs his side to play on the front foot no matter who they are facing, and we can expect Leeds to commit plenty of bodies forward once more on Monday.
Liverpool has not been able to control games this term as they did in their title-winning campaign last time out. Their press has not been quite as effective and their defense has been decimated by injuries. As such, opponents find it easier to create chances against the Reds.
Liverpool still carry a significant threat going forward, and it is interesting that they have been far more prolific on the road than at Anfield of late: whereas they have scored just three goals in their last eight Premier League home games, Klopp’s men have notched 13 in their last six matches on the road.
The evidence suggests Monday’s game could feature plenty of opportunities at both ends. Liverpool needs a win and Leeds do not back down against anyone, so bettors would be wise to turn to the goals market.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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