'We want to bring it on' - Leeds United not daunted by return to Premier League or Liverpool opener

IT was never going to be easy, not back competing with the country’s elite

Friday, 21st August 2020, 5:45 am

As it happens, the opening weekend could not be harder. Liverpool away, on paper the toughest test for Leeds United’s long awaited return.

Yet with excitement buzzing around Elland Road after Thursday morning’s fixture release the message from Leeds was “bring it on” with chief executive Angus Kinnear saying United were not daunted by their top-flight return.

Leeds, after all, have waited 16 years for this since the club’s relegation from the Premier League in May 2004.

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ULTIMATE TEST: Leeds United's return to the Premier League will begin with a clash at newly-crowned champions Liverpool, above, with Marcelo Bielsa taking on Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, left. Photo by PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

United’s drop to the Championship was effectively confirmed by a 4-1 defeat Bolton Wanderers in the club’s third last game with relegation then mathematically assured after United’s final home against Charlton Athletic which ended in a 3-3 draw.

The Whites then ended a run of 14 consecutive years in the country’s top flight with a 1-0 defeat at historic rivals Chelsea on Saturday, May 15, 2004.

But a decade and a half later Leeds United are back and league rivalry with Chelsea will be renewed at Stamford Bridge over the weekend of December 5 and at Elland Road over the weekend of March 13.

As the 2020-21 Premier League fixtures were released at 9am yesterday morning, all eyes were on when Leeds would play the division’s ‘big guns’ and definitely when the Whites would face their ultimate rivals, Roses foes Manchester United.

BUZZING: Leeds United and their chief executive Angus Kinnear, above. Picture by Tony Johnson.

As with Chelsea, there will be quite a wait with Leeds set to visit Old Trafford over the weekend of December 19 in their final game before Christmas.

The Red Devils will then visit Elland Road over the last weekend in April.

The second Roses clash provides the final instalment of a devilishly tough April, one week after Leeds host champions Liverpool on the back of the trip to Manchester City.

Marcelo Bielsa versus Pep Guardiola, Bielsa taking on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Bielsa head to head with Jurgen Klopp.

The toughest tests in English football - with Leeds starting with the very toughest - but Kinnear said United would not have it any other way.

“There’s a real buzz around the club,” said Kinnear, speaking on Sky Sports News after the fixtures announcement.

“I think everyone feels like a supporter. The first game has given everyone a few wry smiles but we have worked so hard to be playing in arenas like that against teams like that so we just want to bring it on.”

Quite when supporters will see Leeds bring it on remains to be seen in the country’s ongoing battle against coronavirus.

Leeds, though, in that respect, might have got lucky in the sense that the most eagerly awaited home clash of all - against Manchester United - will not take place until April.

Liverpool and Sheffield United will also visit Elland Road the same month.

“We would love crowds to be back by that stage,” said Kinnear.

“Ultimately you have to play everybody twice and it doesn’t really matter what order they come in but we are just very pleased to be there.

“The boys are at the training ground, they are looking at the fixtures, they are excited, they are up for the challenge and we are not daunted.”

After the opening weekend at Anfield, United’s first home game will then present some familiar faces as last season’s Championship play-off winners Fulham visit Elland Road.

The eagerly awaited Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United will be next, followed by Guardiola v Bielsa part one as the Whites host Manchester City.

Wolves are next and the big games come thick and fast with Leeds then set to visit Aston Villa, a game which will have plenty of spice after the 1-1 draw at Elland Road in April 2019 when Mateusz Klich played on and scored with Jonathan Kodjia down injured.

November then features an Elland Road date against Arsenal and a trip to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur is in the offing for the first game of 2021.

This, though, is the Premier League.

They are all big games and Kinnear and Leeds cannot wait.

“We are ready for the Premier League,” said Kinnear.

“We had a big kit launch on Thursday and sold more kits in our first hour than we did in the whole of the first day last season.

"It shows the excitement around the club and around the city for Leeds to be back where they belong.”

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Thank you Laura Collins