Newcastle gets back home from last weekend’s trip to Norwich to face a Liverpool squad that will arrive in Tyneside with weary legs and their mouths full of nonsensical claims. Happens when you are chasing a quadruple, you know what I’m saying? We’re here to let you know everything about what is about to go down on Toon home soil when the most in-form teams (yes, your read that right) of the English Premier League face off come noon BST.
Oh, boy, do this Saturday come packed full of tension. Liverpool is opening the weekend against Newcastle before also-contending Manchester City faces Leeds later on the day. Any and every casual fan would think that his two-team run is going to last until the very last day—the very last second, even!—and they wouldn’t be that wrong about it. At the end of the day, Liverpool and Manchester City are the class of the football world: the two are first and second in the Premier League, lead their respective Champions League semi-finals, and in the case of Pool they have already won a title while still in contention for three more trophies.
Now, add a little context, and the perspective might change a bit. Newcastle is going against Liverpool this weekend and Manchester City next one. Assuming things go as one would reasonably expect, Newcastle would drop those two games, the Reds and the Citizens will keep marching on toward a final-weekend exciting finale, and the climax will get through the roof to wrap the season up. Or will it? Because, just in case you have not been paying attention, this is how things have gone of late, and since we flipped the calendar page to this the year 2022 of our lord.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Newcastle ranks second in the 2022 table. Yes, they have 15 games played, more than Liverpool and City, but they have also dropped three games and just a couple of draws instead of defeats would have them evenly distanced from Pool and ManC in this leaderboard. No joke.
Speaking of jokes, Liverpool is coming off a 2-0 win against Villarreal in a game that was more of a trouncing than the final result lets you know. The Klopp Gang has not lost a game (all competitions) since Mar. 8th against Inter Milan, and they haven’t dropped more than two points in the Premier League league since last year when they lost 0-1 to Leicester all the freaking way back in December. What I’m saying is that Liverpool could very well just count their games by victories, and the outcome wouldn’t be that far off reality.
Adding wood to the fire, the Reds have scored eight goals in their past three games while not conceding even one—that included playing two anti-football sides in Everton and Villarreal, which both ended surrendering a couple of scores. It doesn’t make much sense to get eight men inside the box on defense against this side because they’re at a point where, honestly, they carry an inevitability-aura with them that has you thinking they’ll net the ball once or twice without even trying.
That’s the conundrum for Newcastle right there. The Magpies have been absolutely murderous in defense. Barring an outlier 0-5 defeat away at Tottenham, this bunch of lads have not conceded more than one goal in a single game getting back to Dec. 19th (!!!) when City put four of them past Martin Dubravka. Something is clearly working, so there might make sense to put the clamps on Liverpool, forget about the offensive side of things, pull a Villarreal off, and hope for the best. Or maybe the best way of getting an upset W is just going blow-by-blow against the Reds, fighting them with offensive fire, and trying to get away with a City-esque victory by 5-4 or something close to that.
I, for one, don’t see the latter scenario playing out.
Newcastle is playing for fun at this point. Relegation was averted a few weeks ago and you could sense a fabulous calm in the team invading Carrow Road last weekend with all Magpies enjoying their time on the turf and doing their best without a single ounce of pressure above their heads.
Liverpool won’t be missing many players of importance tomorrow with only Firmino out for good—which has been the case since the FA Cup semi-final, so it’s not that the Reds are facing anything new on that front. Klopp will come out with all guns blazing trying to take over the first position if only for a few hours until City inevitably defeats Leeds and retakes the leading spot.
The Gordie Army is entering a tough one here, and the Magpies will only have a measly eight days of rest before facing Manchester City on Sunday next week. Even against a rested Pool that will have been off football fields for more than two days, the defensive effort and offensive efficiency are going to be more than needed. The Black and White have been extraordinary of late and are sitting at the top half of the PL table with real chances at finishing in there when all is said and done. It’s going to be a murderers row for the next week-and-change featuring Reds and Sky-Blues in the schedule.
But hey, we also thought this team was Championship fodder no longer than four months ago, and look at us now. Who would have thought? Not me!
Best guess at the Starting XI from the Geordie Lads, who are expected to rotate back to the top-lineup available against the Reds.
- Not Available: Callum Wilson (Achilles), Kieran Trippier (foot), Ryan Fraser (hamstring). Not in the 25-man squad: Ciaran Clark, Isaac Hayden, Jamal Lewis.
- Some discussion about the possibilities of deploying Joelinton at the front as last weekend against Norwich. I don’t see it, and I wrote about that and other lineup issues earlier this week. Putting Joelinton upfront would mean having Joe Willock as the third midfielder. Shelvey and Bruno can hold their own and perform nicely on defense, but Willock I’m not so sure and this is definitely not a game to take any minimal risk. I’d rather choose Wood and try to get some crosses/long-balls in while fielding a stronger midfield rather than have Joelinton missing in action and not exploiting his true skills.
- Related to that last point: would Eddie favor one or two more defensive options instead of Almirón and—mostly—Allan Saint-Maximin? Joelinton might end up covering his and ASM’s ground for too large spans if both feature. on the left side of the pitch. Left-wing Joe with Longstaff taking one of the MF positions, anyone?
- The 4-5-1 experiment against Liverpool in December didn’t work at all, but as linked in the bullet point above it gave birth to Box-to-Box Joe. Newcastle didn’t really jell until the end of January, so it’s not that doing something similar this Saturday would put Newcastle at a disadvantage from the get-go. No need to play clown/cynic/waste-timing football like Everton did a week ago, but a strong defensive effort is going to be a must on this one.
- Not many surprises in the rest of the lineup, if any at all. Newcastle should be back to playing the best-fieldable package of guys this weekend. Contrary to Liverpool, the Toon are rested and ready for war, so Eddie Howe can afford to put his best players out there without caring that much about recovery time for next week’s clash with Man. City.
- Would Trippier love to feature on this one? You bet. Would Newcastle risk any sort of setback in his recovery, even without the Magpies sitting pretty in the middle of the table? Forget about it. It sucks because Trippier has everything to become a Legend for NUFC, but let’s keep calm and enjoy what we have. The time will come for Tripps.
When and Where’s flowin’
- Date: Saturday, April 30
- Time: 7:30 am ET, 12:30 pm UK
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle
- TV: BT Sport Ultimate, BT Sport 1, TalkSport Radio UK, BTSport.com, BBC Radio Newcastle, BBC Radio 5 Live (UK); USA Network, SiriusXM FC, UNIVERSO NOW, UNIVERSO, Telemundo Deportes (USA); DAZN (Canada)
For all your international streaming needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.
How’s it goin’
Coming Home, Crystal Ball: Newcastle 1 - 3 Liverpool
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Howay the Lads!