Liverpool and Leeds fans urged to stay away from Anfield for season opener

Liverpool begin their title defence against newly promoted Leeds United on Saturday evening. Credit: PA

Police have urged supporters to stay away from Anfield for Saturday's Premier League season opener between Liverpool and Leeds United.

About 3,000 fans defied advice from Liverpool FC, police and public health officials in July to gather outside the stadium as the team lifted last season's title trophy after beating Chelsea.

Leeds will play their first Premier League game since their relegation from the top flight in the 2003/04 season.

Fans defied police advice to stay away from Anfield when Liverpool were presented with the Premier League trophy in July. Credit: PA

The match, which kicks-off at 5.30pm, will be played behind closed doors because of Covid-19 and is being televised.

However, a "comprehensive" policing operation will be in place, with officers on duty at the ground and the surrounding area.

Police chiefs say there will also be an increased presence in the city centre throughout the day and evening.

Leeds are playing in the Premier League for the first time since 2004 after winning the Championship last season. Credit: PA

Superintendent Paul White, of Merseyside Police, said: "As the city prepares for the start of the new football season, we are continuing to remind fans that with games still being held behind closed doors there is no benefit to going to the ground.

"We are urging fans of both clubs to watch it at home or sensibly in licensed premises.

"We are still in the midst of a pandemic and the risk posed by large gatherings is far too great, especially when it is almost impossible to maintain social distancing.

"If you are planning to go to a bar or pub to watch the game, please plan ahead. Venues are still limiting capacity in order to comply with coronavirus guidelines and many fans will have to book in or risk not getting in, queue up, and ensure social distancing is maintained throughout."

Matt Ashton, director of public health for Liverpool, said:

Of course, Covid-19 has not gone away. We are starting to see increased numbers of cases across the city once again. We all want to avoid any local lockdown that disrupts the football season, or closes the city down again, so please play your part.

Matt Ashton, Director of Public Health for Liverpool