St. James’ Park is the venue for Saturday’s early kick-off between Newcastle United and Liverpool. Both sides have had fairly disappointing starts to their seasons. Newcastle sit down in 14th place, behind Liverpool in 7th.
Newcastle are on a mini-run of form, though. Three games (in all competitions) without losing. Beating the champions at the Etihad Stadium in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday evening. They beat Spurs, 2-1, last weekend, too. Alan Pardew has had loads of pressure on him, recently. For the time being, that pressure has gone. The majority of it, anyway.
The sides drew 2-2 last season in this fixture. Goals from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge for the Reds. Yohan Cabaye and Paul Dummett gave Newcastle the lead, twice.
Injury-wise, Liverpool are missing Daniel Sturridge, Jon Flanagan, Jose Enrique, Mamadou Sakho and Suso. There isn’t really a timescale on any of their respective injuries.
Dejan Lovren & Martin Skrtel are likely to be the centre-back pairing. However, is there a case for Kolo Toure to come into the side? None of the usual two centre-backs have made themselves ‘undroppable’, so to speak. The Ivorian defender has put in two relatively decent performances thus far this season. Those are the only two games he’s started, too. I don’t think Toure will play, but he should definitely be considered, in my view.
Javi Manquillo will start at right-back, I reckon. Manquillo isn’t first-choice right-back just yet. I don’t think, anyway. Rodgers will definitely have one eye on Tuesday’s encounter at the Bernabeu. This is why I think he’ll rest Johnson for that game. Experience could be crucial for Tuesday. Although, I’d start Manquillo in both games.
Alberto Moreno was presumably rested against Swansea, an unused sub. He’ll come straight back into the side. Rodgers confirmed Enrique will miss this game against his former-club, too. The Spanish defender is missing out with a “minor knee issue”. I hope it’s not too serious, especially with Flanagan still out.
Steven Gerrard will start at the base of the diamond. Gerrard has had one week rest now, as the captain didn’t take part in the Swansea win. Gerrard should be nice and fresh ahead of a busy week for Liverpool, where they play: Newcastle (A), Real Madrid (A) and Chelsea (H).
Philippe Coutinho is the man I’d go with either side of Gerrard. Coutinho has been incredible in the last few games he’s played. He didn’t start last weekend, which I thought was hugely unfair. I think this position for Coutinho, is arguably his best. This means he can pick the ball up from a lot deeper than the #10 role. He loves to take on defenders and midfielders with his fantastic footwork. I think this position plays into Coutinho’s strengths.
Jordan Henderson on the other side, for me. However, there’s a case for Emre Can, too. The 20 year-old German did well against Hull last week and didn’t play on Tuesday, leaving him fresh for this match. Joe Allen has a shout, too. I think it will be Henderson. But the other two mentioned will most likely come on. They’re both very good impact subs to choose from.
Raheem Sterling will start at the tip of the diamond. Sterling also got a rest on Tuesday night, which could be massive for him, as he has been looking a bit tired, recently. A fresh Raheem Sterling is always an amazing thing to have in your side.
Mario Balotelli finally scored on Tuesday’s win over Swansea. The Italian grabbed the equalizer to double his tally for the Reds. Balotelli is yet to score in the league, though. He will be looking to do that this weekend and build on his midweek heroics. Balotelli needs someone with him, as Tuesday shown.
Fabio Borini was the man who made the goal for Balotelli against the Swans. It was a fantastic cross from the Italian youngster. Borini did really well considering his limited amount of playing time thus far this season. I think he deserves another go. Next to Mario in a diamond. I hope Rodgers feels the same. Borini always gives his all, every game. Despite not being the most talented, in my opinion.
I think Liverpool will build on their win on Tuesday. I’m feeling surprisingly optimistic about this game, bearing in mind our poor run of form. 2-0 to Liverpool is my prediction. Mario Balotelli and Raheem Sterling to both notch.
The side I’d start on Saturday: