The popular narrative heading in to the match at St. James' Park this weekend goes something like this:
Newcastle United host Liverpool this weekend in a match that has massive implications for European qualification... for the Magpies. Having sold on two of their best players over the last year to the Reds for a tidy sum of £41m, most pundits and supporters were chalking Newcastle in for a relegation scrap this season. Shrewd reinvestment of the money recouped through the sales of The Most Expensive British Player In The History Of Ever™ and Jose Enrique, however, now see the Magpies holding sixth place in the Premier League a solid 8 points ahead of their weekend rivals.
While the micro view of this match shows this narrative is pretty well spot on, the macro view shows that Newcastle started the weekend level on points with Chelsea for the critical fifth-place spot that Newcastle covet, and while a 3-point haul for the Mags over Liverpool will establish an 11-point gap between the Reds and themselves and will put Newcastle in the drivers seat to assure a higher league finish than their more accomplished opposition, the real value would be in keeping pace for the automatic Europa League spot. With kick-off approaching, it is certainly the time for the micro view, however, so after the jump we'll get to the 5 points!
- In the last three matches between Newcastle and Liverpool, 13 balls have found the back of the net. Stepping in the time machine to last week's preview, we said this: "Goals happen in this fixture. In fact, neither side has managed to keep a clean sheet in the last 8 contests between the two (least of all Newcastle, who have conceded 3 in each of the last three meetings). In fact, the average goal haul over those same 8 matches is nearly 4.5 (If you're a bettor and you took the over last time, you'd have hit). If either side can keep a clean sheet or perhaps even hold the other to one goal, they're in with a shout. Point: Don't let WBA score." Goals were promised, goals were delivered (4 total... the under hit... barely.) This match should be no different with Newcastle missing Fabricio Coloccini and Liverpool dealing with fitness issues (though they may play) of three of their own back line players.
- Liverpool (8 points in 2012, second-worst to Wolves) are surely in poor form while Newcastle have nearly returned to the form that saw them off to a scorching start to this campaign so long ago. Although in losses to Wigan and QPR they have managed to score... they have not been able to keep their opposition from doing so. Let's face it, though. The form book isn't really going to matter tomorrow.
- James Perch. Steven Taylor: out. Captain Colo: out. Other top-flight quality centre-half we have on roster: non-existent. Mike Williamson: Already pressed into service. If Perchinio manages to keep on the form he has had recently instead of first-part-of-the-season form, we may not be completely devoid of hope. Let us not forget, however, that Perch was at centre-half when we conceded the grand total of four (4) dead ball goals to Norwich a little while back. There are match ups which could go very badly for us: Williamson (chronically clumsy) v. Suarez (chronically unable to stand up) or The Most Expensive British Player In The History Of Ever™ v. Perch for instance (speaking purely on a striker v defense level).
- Alan Pardew: "There is no middle ground, so expect fireworks either really negatively or really positively". If you exclude the 3-1 result in AP's first match in charge, the results look like this: LFC 3 -1 NUFC, LFC 3 - 0 NUFC, LFC 3 - 0 NUFC, LFC 5 - 1 NUFC, LFC 3 - 0 NUFC. . . so on head to head form, one may expect a really negative type fireworks display.
- Craig Bellamy - The former Mag who provided the margin of victory with his first meeting brace has missed four consecutive matches through a calf problem- and Newcastle will be hoping for a fifth as his pace would surely give their patchwork defense fits. Liverpool's leading scorer this year is Luis Suarez with 7 league goals over the course of the season (minus nine matches through suspensions for one reason or another)... Papiss Cisse by contrast has scored 5 goals in his 6 matches since joining Newcastle in the January transfer window. He has also scored in each start he has made at St. James' Park.
Newcastle United FC
6th place 14-8-8, 50 points
Projected XI: Krul | Simpson, Williamson, Perch, Santon | Cabaye, Tiote, Jonas | Ben Arfa, Ba, Cisse
Projected Subs: Elliott, Raylor, Gosling, Ferguson, Vuckic, Obertan, Shola
8th place 11-9-10, 42 points -> Live tables are fun!
Out: Adam (knee), Lucas (knee), Robinson (amkle), Bellamy (calf)
Doubtful: Agger (ribs), Johnson (hamstring)
Projected XI: Reina | Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique | Downing, Spearing, Gerrard, Maxi | TMEBPITHOE™, Suarez
Projected Subs: Doni, Flanagan, Kuyt, Shelvey, Sterling, Aurelio, Coates
Newcastle United 0 - 3 Liverpool because that's just how this fixture rolls. Who am I to buck a trend?