When the Premier League fixture list was released, it almost seemed fitting that Leeds would be travelling to Anfield to face Liverpool in their first game back in the top-flight.
Two giants of English football doing battle once more, but with the obvious caveat of it being played with no fans in the stadium. And if there is anything that we have learned about Marcelo Bielsa during his time at Elland Road, then it’s that he will be feverishly drawing up plans on how to secure a famous victory against the reigning Premier League champions on opening day.
Reports in recent days have suggested that Leeds’ search for a star striker could be over soon, with Valencia’s Rodrigo inching closer to a big-money move to the club. But whilst the Spain international has all the hallmarks of being a superb acquisition, Bielsa could really throw Jurgen Klopp’s side for a loop by starting another one of his summer signings: Joe Gelhardt.
The youngster arrived from Wigan for a reported fee of around £1m, and all signs point to him developing into a top-level centre-forward. Speaking after Gelhardt scored his first goal in professional football last season, then Latics boss Paul Cook said: “To get on the pitch and make an impact in a game at Championship level like Joffy does, it will justify the feelings everyone has about the young man.
“He’s got that special talent in football to create space in tight areas and you only have to look at his finish, the goalkeeper doesn’t move. He’s a great kid, he’s a really nice young man and if he keeps working hard and keeps his head down, he’s going to have a really bright future in the game.”
Anyone who watched Liverpool’s opening day fixture against Premier League new boys Norwich last season would have seen how Klopp’s men were incredibly slow out of the blocks, with Virgil van Dijk looking nothing like his normal self – Teemu Pukki in particular looked threatening with his movement in behind, eventually getting onto the score-sheet in the second half.
Promoted teams will always have that surprise factor early on, but if Bielsa were to unleash Gelhardt against the Reds, then Liverpool may be more than just surprised. It would be the kind of bold move from Leeds that could see Liverpool’s defence unsure of how to deal with Gelhardt, arguably preparing to face the likes of Rodrigo or Patrick Bamford instead.
It could be the kind of inspired decision that sees the Whites secure a famous victory on their top-flight return.