Liverpool will be desperate to get back to winning ways when they welcome Newcastle United to Anfield on Saturday.
The Premier League is fast approaching its end, with just six rounds of fixtures remaining for the curtains to fall on the 2020/21 season. The top four race is more wide open than ever before and in Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off, champions Liverpool will play hosts to Newcastle United at Anfield, hoping to temporarily return to the top four.
Liverpool have seen their Premier League campaign spiral out of control since the turn of the year. Once looking primed to be one of the contenders for the title for a third successive season, the Reds have ended up being horrendous in the defence of their crown, having won just six of their 16 top-flight outings in 2021.
The downturn in fortunes have been contributed by their disastrous form at Anfield, once called a fortress, with Liverpool losing their first six games of the year before finally getting the elusive first win of 2021 two weeks ago against Aston Villa. Newcastle United, on the other hand, have been one of the more underwhelming teams in the Premier League in 2020/21.
In fact, for a long time, it seemed as if the Magpies could have been dragged into the relegation dogfight, but they have managed to pull themselves away from the drop zone in recent weeks. Indeed, Steve Bruce & co. have lost just one of their last seven league games, meaning they are comfortably ahead of 18th-placed Fulham.
The reverse fixture, played at St. James’ Park back in December, saw Liverpool and Newcastle play out a drab goalless draw. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The latest team news from both sides ahead of #LIVNEW 👇
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 23, 2021
Jurgen Klopp has been handed a major boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Newcastle United. On Saturday, the Liverpool manager will be bereft of the services of as many as seven first-team players, but is set to welcome back one squad member.
Curtis Jones is back at Klopp’s disposal after recovering from a knock that had sidelined him for the last three games. However, Nathaniel Phillips remains unavailable due to a hamstring injury, with the 24-year-old remaining on the sidelines along with Caoimhin Kelleher (abdominal tear), Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joel Matip (ankle), Joe Gomez (knee), Jordan Henderson (groin) and Divock Origi (muscle injury).
Kelleher’s absence is hardly a concern, with Alisson Becker the undisputed first-choice in goal. In front of the Brazilian, Liverpool will line up in their usual 4-3-3 formation, with the backline remaining unchanged in the absence of Phillips.
That means Fabinho will continue to pair up with Ozan Kabak at the heart of the Liverpool defence, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson continuing as the two full-backs. Up ahead in midfield, Thiago Alcantara ought to start for a second successive game, with former Newcastle star Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner being certainties alongside him.
In another piece of good news, Diogo Jota is fit and available, as confirmed by Klopp during his pre-match press conference, after initial concerns over his availability as he missed training on Thursday. However, the Portuguese forward is likely to be benched on Saturday, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino forming the attacking trio for Liverpool.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Kabak, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Like his counterpart in the Liverpool dugout, Steve Bruce has a number of first-team players on the sidelines due to fitness issues. However, the Newcastle United manager is no longer sweating over the fitness of Allan Saint-Maximin, who has shrugged off a minor ankle complaint to be available.
The likes of Karl Darlow (knee), Jamaal Lascelles (ankle), Fabian Schar (knee), Iscaac Hayden (knee) and Ryan Fraser (groin) all remain unavailable to take on Liverpool. The absence of Schar and Lascelles means Federico Fernandez, Paul Dummett and Ciaran Clark, set to make his 200th Premier League appearance, will form the three-man central defensive unit.
Indeed, Newcastle ought to be set up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Martin Dubravka in goal, while Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie will be the two wing-backs, who will largely be pinned at the back, but will provide width in the final third during counter-attacking moves. The onus, though, will be on Jonjo Shelvey and Sean Longstaff to keep things tight in the middle of the park.
As for the attack, Miguel Almiron will provide the creative impetus, playing off of the two strikers, who ought to be Callum Wilson and Joelinton, both of whom will provide the threat inside the Liverpool box with their imposing presence.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Dubravka; Fernandez, Clark, Dummett; Murphy, Shelvey, Longstaff, Ritchie; Almiron; Wilson, Joelinton
- Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.53
- Full Time Result – Draw or Newcastle @ 4.00
- Liverpool have not lost at home to Newcastle United in 24 league matches spanning 27 years (W20 D4). The goalless draw in the reverse fixture at St James’ Park ended a run of five successive Liverpool victories against the Magpies.
- Newcastle are unbeaten in their past three matches (W2 D1), having been winless in their previous seven in the Premier League. The Magpies could win three top-flight fixtures in a row for the first time since November 2018 under Rafael Benitez.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in four Premier League matches, winning three (D1). However, the Reds have dropped 13 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, more than in their previous two campaigns combined.
- Jurgen Klopp’s side could become the first team since Sunderland in 2008 to concede the first goal in eight consecutive Premier League home games. On the flip side, Liverpool have failed to score in the first half in any of their last eight home league outings.
- Mohamed Salah is one short of becoming the first player to reach 20 top-flight goals for Liverpool in three seasons since Ian Rush did so four times in the 1980s.
Player to Watch
It has been a bizarre season for Mohamed Salah. While he will be fancying his chances of winning the Premier League Golden Boot for the third time in his Liverpool career, there is no denying the fact that he has had the tendency to go missing at crucial junctures of the season.
This has ultimately meant that Liverpool will not only be finishing trophyless but are also at risk of missing out on a top four finish altogether. With the season entering its most important period now for the Reds, it is up to Salah to get his scoring boots on, especially with Sadio Mane blowing hot and cold. A big game beckons against Newcastle United.
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United
Newcastle United seem to be in the middle of a resurgent run, but it goes without saying that they have a soft underbelly, one that ought to be exploited by Liverpool. The Reds are in a good moment of their own, despite the controversy surrounding the European Super League as well as the 1-1 draw with Leeds United this week. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Jurgen Klopp & co.