Robin Koch has admitted that this will be a tougher season for Leeds United, although he will not be content just with securing Premier League safety.
Leeds will get their second season back in the Premier League underway on Saturday lunchtime. They are visiting rivals Manchester United for an exciting opener. The trip to Old Trafford was one to forget for them last year. So they won’t be hoping for a repeat that would signify the start of a difficult season.
After earning plaudits for their top-half finish last season, there could be more pressure on Leeds this year. But for any side getting acclimatised to the top-flight, the second season in the division is always tricky.
For example, fellow Yorkshire side Sheffield United also came ninth after winning promotion before getting relegated the year after.
Leeds are not expected to follow such a fate, but any ambitions of finishing higher in the table can only materialise further down the line. Their players are being realistic in that regard.
Defender Koch, who joined last summer but could only start 13 Premier League games due to injury issues, knows they are in for a defining season.
“I think the second year is more difficult than the first,” he said. “We have to be really well prepared; it’s going to be a hard season.
“We have to see how we start the season. I don’t think we will say we are happy (just) to stay in the league, but we know it will be difficult.
“I think in the past we have seen lots of the times from the experience of other clubs.
“We can be happy with our first season. But I think everyone is now looking at Leeds and thinking, ‘OK, they did really well last year’. So maybe we don’t have that surprise and that could make it a little bit more difficult.”
The first indications of Leeds’ potential for the season ahead will come at Old Trafford. Man Utd are one of the favourites for the title. But the Whites performed well against some of the bigger sides last year, despite how their last trip to Saturday’s destination went.
It will be all to play for this time and Koch feels his teammates are ready for the challenge.
“It’s the first game of the season so it’s difficult to say how well we are prepared and how Manchester United have prepared,” he added.
“I think we have a good pre-season and everyone is ready to play. Manchester United is a really special game for us so we are happy to get started.”
Koch reflects on Euros experience
The 25-year-old will be keen to kick on after a disrupted debut season in West Yorkshire and a disappointing summer.
Koch was a member of the Germany squad that never really got going at Euro 2020. Although he didn’t play in any of their games, he still felt the disappointment heavily.
“For Germany it wasn’t the best Euros and for me too of course, I didn’t play any games,” he said.
“But before the Euros I had to deal with my injury. I was happy to be involved in the squad because I was not sure after being out for so long. But I was not happy with the tournament.
“After the Euros you are always looking to the next games with the national team and the next tournament, but also looking to the next games now with Leeds.”
The former Freiburg man will be hoping to prove his worth in the coming months in a defining season for both player and club.