After what’s felt like an unbearably long wait, Liverpool return to Premier League action with an early Saturday kickoff against Newcastle United at Anfield.
With four wins from their opening four league fixtures (with a Supercup victory along the way), the Reds currently sit atop of the Premier League table and will be looking to continue that momentum on the weekend.
Although it appears to be a relatively straightforward affair on paper, Newcastle’s shock 1-0 victory over Tottenham two weeks ago suggests Steve Bruce’s side could prove to be a stern test.
To say Newcastle fans weren’t filled with optimism heading into the season would probably be something of an understatement; top scorers Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez departed the club, while Rafa Benitez had been replaced by Premier League stalwart Steve Bruce in what was a remarkably uninspiring appointment.
With the win over Spurs their solitary one of the campaign so far, it’s been something of a mixed start for The Magpies. A lack of potency in attack seems to be a recurring problem; their 3 goals so far is second only to Watford in terms of the least goals scored in the league, while, despite flashes of quality, their £40m arrival from Hoffenheim, Joelinton, has often flattered to deceive.
Defensive issues were also plain to see in their 3-1 loss to Norwich, where the whole team looked jaded and cumbersome. While the win over Spurs may offer a sense of optimism, you’d think Liverpool would present far too much to contend with.
Last Meeting (Newcastle United 2 Liverpool 3, May 4th 2019):
Liverpool’s last encounter with Newcastle came during the height of drama in the title run in back in May, with the North-East based side providing plenty of problems on the day.
Even though Liverpool led twice on the night thanks to goals from Virgil Van Dijk and Mo Salah, Newcastle came back to equalise twice in a typically dogged Benitez performance.
It looked set to be heading for a demoralising draw, until Divock Origi popped up from the substitutes bench as he did so frequently last season, to rescue Liverpool with a match-winning header and to take the title race down to the wire.
You’d like to hope the upcoming fixture will be significantly less nerve inducing.
Alisson’s recovery is progressing well, with the goalkeeper returning to light training outside at Melwood. Adrian is set to continue to play in goal in his absence.
There were rumblings that Naby Keita could recover from a thigh issue to feature, yet there has been no official indication of this, and his inclusion looks highly improbable.
There are no fresh injury concerns, although Nathaniel Clyne remains a long-term absentee.
Injury problems continue to persist for Steve Bruce’s side, with Matt Ritchie (ankle), Dwight Gayle (calf), Florian Lejeune (knee) and Allan Saint-Maxim (thigh) all missing out through their respective issues. DeAndre Yedlin is close to returning, although Saturday is likely to come too soon as he steps up his recovery from a groin injury.
Anfield had originally been earmarked as the opportunity for Andy Carroll to make his return for his boyhood club after rejoining on a free transfer, yet a lack of match fitness means his comeback is still not imminent and he won’t be ready to feature.
Liverpool: Adrian, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems, Almiron, Hayden, Longstaff, Atsu, Joelinton
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle United