St James’ Park, Newcastle
October 19, 2013; 11:45 GMT
The last outing between Newcastle United and Liverpool FC is an embarrassing memory for the Tyneside club, who were at the end of a 6-0 thrashing as Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson scored two goals each. The Merseyside team is a different entity now, with Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher and Stewart Downing no longer with the club, and Philippe Coutinho unlikely to be back from injury. Newcastle United have been an erratic side, with forward Loic Remy being their shining light in attack. Manager Alan Pardew will be hoping he can erase the memory of that 6-0 match with a good outing here.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Everyone loves an attack-minded team. Fans swoon with joy when they see a manager start the game with an “all-guns-blazing” (pardon the cliché) approach, as they picture their attacking players cutting through opposition defences like a farmer’s scythe through stalks of wheat. But football isn’t just about scoring goals. It’s also about not letting the opponent score. And this is exactly where the problem lies for Newcastle United. In a span of 7 league matches, the Tyneside team have already conceded 3 or more goals in three matches.
QPR loanee Loic Remy’s game pretty much sums up both Newcastle’s strength and their weakness. A goal-scorer by nature, Remy has been played as the left-attacking player in Alan Pardew’s favoured 4-2-3-1. He has been in spectacular goal-scoring form since joining Newcastle, and has a well-rounded attacking game: good dribbling, a great right foot and good passing ability (an 80% average passing accuracy so far). The one aspect of his game that is lacking is in carrying out his defensive duties. Remy simply does not track back to help out left-back Davide Santon whenever he is being overrun. Additionally, both full-backs Santon and Mathieu Debuchy are better known for their attacking contributions than their defensive acumen. Center-half Fabricio Coloccini is out due to a groin injury and will be replaced by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. His partner in the heart of defence, Michael Williamson, has the highest average clearances per game of either team (11).
Papiss Cisse has not started this season well, and is yet to open his goal-scoring account; he is unlikely to break his duck against Liverpool’s solid central defence. Either of Hatim Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran will start in the right-sided attacking role, with Gouffran being favoured by Pardew in recent games. However, looking at Liverpool left wing-back Jose Enrique (incidentally, a former Newcastle player) and his somewhat mediocre defensive game, it would probably be better to field Ben Arfa, who is capable of both crossing and scoring.
Newcastle Probable Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Krul (GK); Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Williamson, Santon; Sissoko, Tiote; Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Remy; Cisse
Liverpool fans will be keeping their fingers crossed hoping that Glen Johnson, Joe Allen and Aly Cissokho will be back to full-fitness in time for this match. All three have returned to training (after their respective injuries) in mid-week and will be hoping to be featured in the Newcastle game. Out of the three, manager Brendan Rodgers will be especially happy to regain the services of Johnson, who is the best option for right-back (or right wing-back) by a mile. With Coutinho yet to return from injury, Rodgers is likely to stick with his 3-4-1-2 formation. Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are likely to be given starts, but Mamadou Sakho will do his best to dislodge one of them from the starting line-up. With Glen Johnson on the right flank, the left wing-back role will again be filled by Enrique (though unconfirmed reports had indicated a possibility that he may be unavailable). Steven Gerrard will be partnered in central midfield by Jordan Henderson (Lucas Leiva is unavailable for personal reasons), who put in a good shift in that role against Crystal Palace. The vastly impressive duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will lead the line, with Victor Moses playing just behind them.
While Liverpool have done well to cope with the absence of Philippe Coutinho, it is clear that the team’s midfield has been decidedly weaker since his absence. Henderson and Gerrard will have to work together to ensure that they are able to provide balls from midfield for the front-men, while at the same time ensuring sufficient cover for the back-line. At the back, the center-backs will have to ensure that Remy and Ben Arfa are dispossessed as quickly as possible, as they are the opposition’s biggest threats.
Liverpool Probable Starting Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Mignolet (GK); Skrtel, Toure, Agger; Johnson, Gerrard, Henderson, Enrique; Moses; Suarez, Sturridge
- Liverpool have won seven of the last 10 meetings (7 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses).
- Since the start of last season only Asmir Begovic (354) has played more accurate long balls in the league than Gerrard (349).
- Sterling has committed more fouls (3) than he has made dribbles (2) and has failed to find a teammate with any of his 5 attempted crosses.
Courtesy: whoscored.com; eplindex.com
Player to Watch Out For
Luis Suarez (Liverpool FC)
The Uruguayan has missed the start of the season due to his 10-match ban incurred last season for biting Branislav Ivanovic. But he has returned with a bang, scoring in both the league matches (Sunderland and Crystal Palace) he has been a part of so far. Whether he does it to out-do his tremendous 23 goal tally in 2012-13 season, or to try to secure a move to Real Madrid (as the rumors state) in January, one can be sure that Luis will do his best to get the ball into the back of the Newcastle United net.
Newcastle United 1 – 3 Liverpool FC
Alan Pardew will make sure that Newcastle United do not suffer another embarrassment at the hand of the Reds, and will order the likes of Tiote and Sissoko to contribute to the team’s defence. But Liverpool are in blazing form, while Newcastle have been leaking goals recently, conceding 7 in their last 3 league outings. Liverpool FC should be able to pull off a victory in a match that is likely to have only brief phases of Newcastle attacking domination.