By Neil Robinson
(Reuters) – Liverpool will play in front of their biggest home crowd in 39 years when Anfield’s main stand is reopened for the Premier League visit of champions Leicester City on Saturday.
Although ground capacity has yet to be confirmed by the local council, a full house of about 54,000 is expected to see Juergen Klopp’s side play their first home game of the season.
The new three-tier stand will contain an extra 8,500 seats and be a significant step in the club’s attempts to narrow the gap in match-day revenues on their competitors.
The latest figures from 2014-15 put Manchester United on £108.1 million ($145.16 million), followed by Arsenal on £100.2 million ($134.55 million), Chelsea on £71 million ($95.34 million) and Liverpool on £50.9 million ($68.35 million).
Liverpool expect their increased capacity to boost revenue by £20 million ($26.86 million) with the possibility of more to come if the club go ahead with the redevelopment of the Anfield Road End for which they have planning permission.
That would further boost capacity by 6,000 to about 60,000, putting them on a par with London clubs West Ham United, who have just moved into the 2012 Olympic Games stadium, and Arsenal but still way below Manchester United (76,000).
Anfield’s 18-month redevelopment took longer than scheduled, meaning Liverpool’s opening Premier League fixture against Burnley was switched to their opponents’ Turf Moor home.
Now, though, the famous old ground is preparing to house its biggest crowd since 55,675 watched Liverpool play West Ham on the final day of the 1976-77 season.
It promises to be another special Anfield day with more than 40 banners and flags, dating back from 1940 through to the present day and featuring tributes to memorable moments in Liverpool’s history, being displayed.
They will include the tribute to defender Joey Jones at the 1977 European Cup final against Borussia Moenchengladbach in Rome, which read memorably: “Joey Ate The Frogs Legs, Made The Swiss Roll, Now He’s Munching Gladbach.”
Liverpool defender Joel Matip said he was relishing hearing the club’s famous anthem of You’ll Never Walk Alone at the stadium, which has been the club’s home since its formation in 1892.
“I’ve been waiting the whole pre-season to make my first steps at the stadium,” he said.
“I think Liverpool is famous for its stadium, for its atmosphere. To hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ for the first time at the stadium will be a special moment.”
Liverpool’s record attendance, set before the introduction of all-seater stadiums, is 61,905 for an FA Cup tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1952.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Ian Chadband)