Micah Richards has discussed the 2020/21 Premier League season | Visionhaus/Getty Images
Exclusive – Sky Sports pundit and former Premier League champion Micah Richards feels that Liverpool will only remain the team to beat in 2020/21 and stay at the same outstanding level that brought them the title last season if their squad remains injury free.
The Reds blew away the competition last season, doing so for most of the campaign with a settled starting XI. Injuries did come and go, but the majority of Jurgen Klopp’s key players remained available at crucial times – which is something that Richards says could be the difference this season, if that tide is turned.
“Come on, you’re on Sky, you’re on Live TV…look like you’ve had a wash!” ?
The @SkySportsPL pundits go through the ???? and ????? dressed in the [email protected] | @Carra23 | @MicahRichards | #TheresEverythingToPlayFor pic.twitter.com/IOmMIrm21G
— 90min (@90min_Football) September 10, 2020
“[Liverpool] will be as good if they keep everyone fit. If they get a couple of injuries during the season, no,” the former Manchester City defender tells 90min ahead of Sky Sports’ 29th season of live Premier League coverage.
“If you took [Mohamed] Salah or [Sadio] Mane out of the team, that’s just obvious they can’t be the same. The quality they’ve got off the bench is not the same as the first XI.
“That’s why you would think they would be at it in the transfer market and it’s difficult because you don’t want to bring a top player in just to sit on the bench. So it’s a bit of catch-22 with Liverpool.”
But despite reservations about Liverpool’s options beyond Klopp’s preferred XI, Richards says it’s the reigning champions that are most likely to go undefeated in 2020/21 – largely because Manchester City aren’t as well placed to achieve that feat, while Chelsea – despite the money invested at Stamford Bridge this summer in the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz – are simply not ready.
Richards worries Man City are not defensively strong enough | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
“Manchester City are still working out bits and pieces of their back-line. They might score more goals than Liverpool, but City concede too many goals to stay undefeated,” Richards explains.
“[Chelsea] could probably get third or push for second. I don’t think they’ve got enough yet to win it,” the 32-year-old stated. Last season when they had no transfer you wouldn’t think they’d get top four. Frank’s done an amazing job, it’s just a different pressure now. He’s got to do it, having spent money.”
As for the season’s surprise package, Richards is backing home-town club Leeds to defy expectations now that they are back in the top flight for the first time in 16 years.
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Stirring the pot with the @SkySportsPL pundits ahead of the Premier League return. [email protected] | @Carra23 | @MicahRichards | #TheresEverythingToPlayFor pic.twitter.com/GLntNxdesa
— 90min (@90min_Football) September 9, 2020
“You go to Elland Road and it’s like a warzone,” he says. “Their fans…they were getting 30,000 in League One. Going to Elland Road for [away] teams when fans are allowed back to the stadium [shakes head]. Leeds fans are fanatic, so I’ll think they’ll be a big surprise.
“They need to improve striking options, but they’ve got one of the best managers, though…Bielsa, wow. Tactically, incredible. If they can improve on striking, they’ll be the surprise package this year.”
However, Leeds have been dealt the toughest start by the fixture and must travel to Anfield to face champions Liverpool in their very first game on Saturday evening.
Richards expects Leeds to surprise the Premier League | Michael Regan/Getty Images
“That’s the worst fixture for Leeds, straight off, and could do some damage to their confidence. 3-0 or 4-0, as much as I hate to say it. They can’t go to Anfield and get anything, I don’t think,” Richards adds. “[Bielsa] is going to have to [keep the same tactics] because that’s all he knows. He loves that high press but Liverpool can play around it and can press high if they want to as well.”
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