Liverpool welcome Newcastle United to Anfield on Saturday, with Rafael Benitez set to make a return to the club that he had so much success with. The Reds are in terrific form of late and will be looking to continue their current momentum while Newcastle will be desperate to pick up points to ensure Premier League survival.
Liverpool currently lie in 7th place, five points behind rivals Manchester United with a game in hand. The Reds look set to miss out on a top four place that would guarantee them Champions League football and thus have placed increasing importance on the Europa League competition in recent weeks, coming away with a tremendous win against Borussia Dortmund to progress to the semi final, where they will face Villarreal.
The biggest hinderance for the Reds’ season has been their consistency, with games against the likes of Newcastle and Watford earlier on in the season, proving too much of an ask for a side that lacks much physical strength. However, Klopp’s performances at City and Chelsea earmark what can be produced by a relatively young and energetic Liverpool side, and with their form in recent weeks, Newcastle will have to be right at it to come away with something on Saturday.
In their last match, Liverpool came away with a 4-0 win against Everton at home, producing a tantalising performance to completely brush aside Roberto Martinez’s side. The Reds took the lead late in the first half after a number of chances had passed them by, when Divock Origi was on hand to head home James Milner’s cross. The lead was doubled just moments later when Mamadou Sakho rose well inside the area, completely unmarked by the Everton defence to smash the ball into the roof of the net and give the goalkeeper no chance.
Things didn’t get any better for Everton when Funes Mori received his marching orders for a horrific tackle on Divock Origi which may well have ended the Belgian’s season. Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho were on hand to increase the Reds’ tally and cap off an impressive home performance by Klopp’s men.
Liverpool have won back to back Premier League games at home for the first time since May 2015. Klopp’s side are unbeaten in their last five league matches at Anfield, losing only one in their last nine and thus will once again fancy themselves against a side in a severe relegation scrap.
In his pre-match press conference, Jurgen Klopp stated that “We know about the strengths of Newcastle, especially the physical strength of Newcastle but not only that. You need to be fit in this game, there is no doubt about it. That’s what we need to know about this game. They fight for the league and you have to accept this fight and fight back.”
Newcastle currently lie 19th in the Premier League, 2 points from safety with four games left to play. They have won just three of their last 30 away games in the game (W3 D3 L24), losing the last nine in a row, and thus they will be right up against it on Saturday against Jurgen Klopp’s side who are high on confidence. The Magpies are yet to pick up a point on their travels this year, with the last point collected on 13th December when they won against Tottenham.
Since that game, Benitez’s new side haven’t led in any of their away games, falling behind to mount even more pressure on the side. Furthermore, they have conceded three or more goals on 10 different occasions in the league this season, joint highest with Aston Villa who are already relegated to the Championship next season.
However, Newcastle do still offer a threat and will no doubt cause Liverpool some problems on Saturday especially from set pieces where they have a good amount of height through the likes of Papiss Cisse and Sissoko. The Reds are known for their blunders at corners and free kicks and thus if Benitez’s side can soak up some heavy pressure, they may find one or two chances to nick something late on.
In his pre-match press conference, Rafael Benitez stated that “We are fighting and they are fighting. They have a good manager and they have good players. The atmosphere will be fantastic. We know about our away form and it’s not the best, but the reaction of the players these last two games showed me that we can improve. We have got to believe, I’m not just happy with just two good games. We have to fight to the end.”
Head To Head
It has been 22 years since Newcastle last won at Anfield in the Premier League, when Kevin Keegan’s side came away as 2-0 winners in 1994. Liverpool’s unbeaten home run in this fixture stretches to 20 league games (W17 D3). The Magpies have had six players sent off in their last seven league games against Liverpool, including four in the last three ties.
Liverpool will be without in-form striker Divock Origi at the weekend after the Belgian suffered ankle ligament damage following a horror tackle by Funes Mori in their 4-0 win against Everton. Thus, the Reds are left with only Daniel Sturridge to field up front with Christian Benteke not yet ready to return from a knee injury. Emre Can and Jordan Henderson remain sidelined meaning Joe Allen and James Milner will likely feature once more.
Newcastle will be without Daryl Janmaat, who is out with a groin injury meaning that Vurnon Anita is set to retain his place in the side. Furthermore, captain Fabricio Coloccini remains out with a groin issue. Kevin Mbabu returns from injury for Rafa’s side.
Simon Mignolet will no doubt retain his place in the side despite a thoroughly impressive debut performance by Danny Ward last weekend against Bournemouth. Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren are set to feature at the heart of defence alongside Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne. However with Sakho now dropped with this doping claim, Kolo or Skrtel may start ahead of them. Joe Allen and James Milner could make up the midfield for the Reds, while Lucas Leiva offers slightly more in the way of defence if Klopp decides to field the Brazilian. Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino will provide the flair and creativity to the team. Daniel Sturridge will continue his run within the side and be hoping to grab another goal for the side after surpassing 50 goals for the club.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle