Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle
April 27, 2013; 17:30 GMT
There is an air of tension growing around these two teams competing at Tyneside this weekend. Newcastle United, after a phenomenal run last season, find themselves battling for survival amongst other relegation candidates this time around. Alan Pardew’s French influx has not quite had the kind of luck they had last year. Nonetheless, the Magpies will be looking to take the game to a battered Liverpool side when the Reds come visiting to the Sports Direct arena. The recent derby loss to Sunderland followed by a dismal draw against West Brom has left Newcastle just six points off the drop zone and Pardew must ensure that for him and the team to wake up in the Premier League next season, he must put out a starting XI for one of the two tough fixtures remaining from Newcastle’s last four games of the season.
It isn’t the greatest feeling to be inside the Liverpool dressing room at the moment. But what is worse is to be Liverpool’s manager. Brendan Rodgers and his star striker Luis Suarez have had their roughest week in Liverpool recently and it doesn’t really aid the situation that Liverpool are in. Suarez, who has recently seen a 10-match ban slapped on him for biting Ivanovic in Liverpool’s game against Chelsea last weekend has put the Reds in a very dangerous position towards the end of the season. Liverpool needed their Uruguayan now more than ever to ensure they finish as high up as possible so they are in contention for Europa qualification next year. But it now looks like Brendan Rodgers has his toughest test yet, as Liverpool manager, and has to rely on each and every individual on his team to deliver the results and take Liverpool to a safe finish.
Team News and Tactical Brief
One of the key players to return to the Newcastle setup this weekend is Cheick Tiote. The Ivorian missed Newcastle’s draw against West Brom last weekend with a hamstring injury but is reportedly back in contention for a starting berth against Liverpool.
Striker Papiss Cisse is also expected to make the cut although he underwent treatment this week for a rib injury. At the back, the Magpies would have hoped to have their captain Fabricio Coloccini back in for this crucial fixture but the Argentine is still short of fitness despite returning to training this week.
Sylvain Marveaux, Davide Santon, Tim Krul and Ryan Taylor remain sidelined due to injuries. With so many first team players missing, no doubt Alan Pardew has had a rough season.
From Pardew’s perspective, it definitely looks like a good time to face Liverpool. With their striker punished with a heavy ban, the Reds aren’t really high on confidence with four games left. Newcastle’s main approach to this game is likely to attack Liverpool right from kick-off, something the Reds have themselves been doing to visiting team at Anfield. This means Newcastle’s midfield will play a key role in pushing the Liverpool defence ahead of the park. The likes of Cabaye, Sissoko, Gouffran and Gutierrez will form the necessary support system for Cisse upfront while Tiote’s main role will be to keep Gerrard at bay, who is likely to play a more advanced role in the absence of Suarez.
In defence, Steven Taylor and Yanga-Mbiwa might have their jobs cut out easy in the absence of Suarez’ meandering runs, but if Rodgers decides to play Sturridge in the central role, making him less mobile, then the Englishman does have the pace and skill to overtake either of the defenders. This means Newcastle must maintain a tight defense line at the back, not allowing any balls to be played through the center of the park.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Elliot; Debuchy, Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara; Tiote, Cabaye; Gouffran, Sissoko, Gutierrez; Cisse
It is news all over now that Suarez has received his 10-match ban which starts with the game against Newcastle. Winter signing Daniel Sturridge will take the No.7’s place. Putting Sturridge on the field means lack of striking options on the bench. This could lead to the possible inclusion of Fabio Borini, who returned to training this week after a lengthy lay-off due to a dislocated shoulder he picked up in February.
Martin Kelly and Joe Allen are out for the rest of the season while Raheem Sterling also remains sidelined due to injury and will not make it to the starting XI.
Liverpool will have to first soak the pressure as soon as they walk out on the pitch. With five days between their last game and this one, the Reds had to deal with a lot due to FA’s charge on Suarez. But on Saturday they will walk out with the pressure of delivering.
It is likely that we will see a slightly patient start by Liverpool when compared to Newcastle. This means that everyone behind Lucas Leiva, including him, will have to get in front of any attack built by the Magpies. Once they are settled in, we could see the likes of Coutinho, Sturridge and Downing turning up the heat against Newcastle.
While Sturridge will receive the necessary support from Coutinho and Downing no doubt, Steven Gerrard is likely to play a little higher up the pitch in order to feed Sturridge from the center. Hence, we could see Jordan Henderson in a slightly withdraw role between Lucas and Gerrard. The reason being Liverpool will also be looking to draw first blood to give themselves that impetus to finish Newcastle off early.
Over at defence, Carragher and Agger need to stay alert and ensure they don’t rush into tackles because Cisse’s quality allows him to experiment from anywhere at any time. We’ve seen him score some great goals since his arrival in England so Liverpool’s central pairing needs to stay vigilant more than aggressive.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Henderson; Gerrard, Downing, Coutinho; Sturridge
- Liverpool have drawn their last three Premier League games; they have not drawn four in a row since December 2008.
- Liverpool have only kept two clean sheets in 18 Premier League trips to Tyneside.
- Newcastle have conceded more goals than ever before at this stage of a Premier League campaign (60).
Stats Courtesy Opta
Player to Watch Out For
Papiss Cisse (Newcastle United)
All eyes will be on Papiss Cisse for this fixture. The Senegalese international has been the club’s leading goal scorer this season and clearly bears a brunt of the responsibility to see them through the rest of the season. With all the support from the Newcastle midfield, we predict that Cisse will get ample opportunities to give Liverpool a hard time.
Newcastle United 1 – 1 Liverpool
The last time Liverpool had to get through a league game without Suarez was away at West Ham, where they walked out 3-2 winners. But this time around, they are against a team which is desperate for survival, one which is fighting to dismiss the notion that their fifth place finish last season was not a fluke. This premise doesn’t make this a walk in the park for Liverpool but at the same time, we don’t think Rodgers will lead a team low on morale after what happened this week. Now, more than ever, Liverpool need to show a strong sense of character and determination and prove to critics that they aren’t nothing without Suarez. We expect a high-pulsating game between these two sides as usual, but don’t see it going beyond a draw.