Liverpool are hoping to finish 2020 on a positive note when they lock horns with Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Wednesday.
Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion on the weekend saw them miss out on the opportunity of extending their lead at the top. Instead, they are now running the risk of further reducing the gap to Manchester United and Manchester City, especially if they fail to secure a win in their upcoming game against Newcastle United on Wednesday.
Although the Reds have been aided by poor performances from Chelsea, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur this past week, they are only five points ahead of fifth-placed United heading into this week’s round of fixtures. The Reds have a game in-hand, meaning the gap could be reduced to two points and Liverpool may even lose their place at the top should they lose against the Magpies this midweek.
Therefore, it is a vital game for Jurgen Klopp’s men as they look to maintain their ideal position in the Premier League table. The Merseyside giants have largely performed well in recent weeks – a record that was dented by their disappointing draw with relegation-threatened West Brom on the weekend.
Fortunately for the English champions, their midweek opponents in Newcastle United aren’t enjoying the best of periods in the Premier League this season. The Tyneside outfit is, in fact, winless in their last four matches all competitions, including a 1-0 defeat to Brentford that saw them bow out of the League Cup.
Here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this crucial Premier League encounter at St. James’ Park on Wednesday.
Tactics & Team News
There has been quite a lot of activity in the Newcastle United camp in regards to potential absentees. Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles remain on the sidelines, but Martin Dubravka has continued to train after recovering from his long injury layoff. In addition, Jonjo Shelvey, who missed the last game against Man City, has trained with the team ahead of Wednesday’s clash.
However, none of these players are expected to feature against Liverpool. Especially in defence, coach Steve Bruce is likely to persist with the defensive trifecta of Fabian Schar, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark. These three are set to be supported by the two fullbacks in Jamal Lewis and Emil Krafth, although Paul Dummett is also an option either at centre-back or at left-back.
In midfield, Bruce is unlikely to rush Shelvey back into the starting lineup, so we expect Matty Longstaff to retain his place in the side after making his first start of the season against Manchester City. He should continue to feature alongside Isaac Hayden at the base of Newcastle United’s 5-4-1 this midweek.
Moving forward, the Magpies will be relying on the services of Miguel Almiron and Matt Richie to provide the creative essence in the final third, in the absence of Saint-Maximin. Joelinton is a natural option in the number nine role. But Bruce may have the privilege of starting with Callum Wilson, who did make the bench in the last game so he should be fit to make the squad on Wednesday.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Darlow; Krafth, Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Lewis; Almiron, Hayden, Longstaff, Ritchie; Wilson
Klopp faced yet another major injury blow on the weekend when Joel Matip picked up an adductor problem. The defender is set to be assessed before the game, though he is unlikely to start regardless of his fitness. Naby Keita, meanwhile, is more than likely to miss the trip to Newcastle United, thus joining the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Diogo Jota and Kostas Tsimikas in the list of injury-related absentees.
On the bright side, however, Thiago has made good progress in training. The Spaniard should be back in action soon while James Milner is fit to feature, giving Klopp more options in the middle of the park.
As far as the starting lineup is concerned, Matip’s likely absence should pave the way for Rhys Williams to form the central defensive pairing alongside Fabinho. No other changes are expected in an already depleted defensive unit for the English champions this midweek.
In midfield, Keita and Thiago are likely to be out, which leaves Klopp with three options in Milner, Curtis Jones and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain. The latter made a promising substitute appearance against West Brom and might get the nod ahead of Jones in the additional midfield slot alongside the two guaranteed starters in Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson.
And finally, in the attack, Klopp should persist with the offensive trifecta of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino despite their failure to breach the West Brom backline. The German tactician doesn’t have too many alternatives either, especially with Jota, still out injured.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Williams, Fabinho, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.90
1. Callum Wilson to score anytime @ 3.50
- Newcastle United are winless in seven Premier League games against Liverpool, losing each of the last five in a row. They’ve never lost six consecutive top-flight games against the Reds.
- Liverpool are looking to win three consecutive top-flight away games against Newcastle for the first time, netting exactly three goals in each of their last two visits to St. James’ Park.
- Newcastle United are unbeaten in their last four Premier League home games against reigning champions, since a 0-2 loss against Manchester City in August 2014.
- Newcastle have won their final league game in just two of the last 17 calendar years, beating Everton 3-2 in 2014 and Nottingham Forest 3-1 in 2016 (Championship).
- Liverpool have won their final league game in each of the last six calendar years, since losing 2-1 against Chelsea in 2013.
Player to Watch
Mohamed Salah is the Premier League’s top scorer so far with 13 goals. However, his excellent productivity has somewhat shadowed his questionable form as the winger has excelled in some games but failed in the others. It was a similar case against West Brom when he simply couldn’t impose his presence in the final third despite the Liverpool dominance.
Salah could face a similar challenge against Newcastle United this time around, as the Magpies primarily like to defend in deep blocks against top-quality opposition. So like his teammate Mane, the Egyptian international must look to make those darting runs into the box and get on the end of one of Robertson’s crosses if he is to find the back of the net.
Newcastle should also be aware of the Liverpool star’s ability from long-range, though Bruce’s men will primarily look to restrict his influence with some tight marking in and around the penalty box. Either way, Salah is definitely one to watch out for in this crucial Premier League encounter on Wednesday.
Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle United
Liverpool will be disappointed to have missed out on three points against West Brom. But unlike the Baggies, Newcastle do not have the added boost of a new manager and have fared rather poorly in recent weeks. They are also missing a host of their key players so it won’t be surprising to see the Magpies once again lacking their sharpness in all departments of the game.
As for the Reds, they are also without star players like van Dijk and Jota but have more than enough firepower to get the better of the NUFC backline. Hence, we are expecting an upturn of fortunes for the away side this midweek.