The 2019/20 Premier League season will be remembered for all sorts of reasons. We had Liverpool's complete dominance and we had the unparalleled drama of the nationwide lockdown, the effects of which we'll still be feeling in the new year.
The most noticeable side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in football will be the lack of crowds in stadiums. There have been small-scale trials in pre-season, but filling out a stadium with 40,000 fans or so won't be happening for a while.
It's a blow which will be felt in different ways across the country, but one team who will feel it more than others is Liverpool, whose famed Anfield atmosphere is often credited for playing a large part in their Premier League title victory.
Speaking to 90min ahead of Sky Sports' 29th season of live Premier League coverage, club favourite Jamie Redknapp admits that being forced to play without the vocal support of the crowd at Anfield could have a bigger impact on Liverpool than many fans have predicted.
"I think Liverpool are going to be really good," he begins. "As good as last year? It's not far off impossible to be as good. I think they were incredible last season.
"I think there's a couple of things you have to take into account. Not having a crowd will probably affect Liverpool more than any other team. I've been there when things are good, Anfield's a fortress. When you've got a great team, the most amazing stadium and fans and a manager that wants and demands that the crowd play as big a part as the team, I think they're going to miss the crowd more than any other team.
"That might give other teams more of an opportunity. It felt to me last year, and maybe the year before, that when teams went to Anfield, they were beaten even before the game was started, you could see it in the tunnel.
"Now, they're going to get a bit more time. The crowd push you into places at times, they demand you go press when sometimes you wouldn't, and I think that's going to play a huge part.
"I still fancy Liverpool for the title. I still think they'll win the league, but not having crowds will probably affect them more than anyone."
Redknapp wastes little time in admitting that he sees Liverpool and Manchester City as his top two sides next season, with Manchester United close behind. After an internal debate, he eventually settles on Chelsea to take up fourth spot at Arsenal's expense.
"I think Chelsea have got a long way to go [before challenging for the title]," Redknapp explains. "I said it at the end of the season, and I think Frank [Lampard]'s well aware of that.
"I think [Ben] Chilwell's a really good signing. Left-back's been a major problem. [Kai] Havertz is a player that I'd love to see in the Premier League. [Christian] Pulisic had a brilliant last few months of the season.
"Obviously, you want [Timo] Werner to start really well, because that's a major problem - Giroud doesn't get enough goals. He's such a good player for the team, able to bounce the ball in to you and play one-twos, but sometimes you need more, and I think that's why Frank has brought in Werner."
During his time at Anfield, Redknapp faced off against Leeds no less than 13 times, with his finest memory being bagging the fourth and final goal in a comprehensive 4-0 win in early 1997.
"I always loved that fixture," Redknapp says. "I scored a couple of goals in it and just always used to love it. It just felt real. It was raw.
"I think it'll be tough. One thing you can guarantee about a Bielsa team is that they're extremely well-organised, they'll be super fit, they have a system that they know, they play out from the back, they're very comfortable on the ball. I watched a lot of them in the Championship last year, and the year before, they were incredibly unlucky and obviously blew it towards the end.
"This year, the crowd are going to be buzzing. I can't wait for the first game at Elland Road when the crowd are actually in the stadium, because they're going to need their fans to make sure they stay up."
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Source : 90min