If it feels a little bit like a Déjà vu, well, that’s because it is. Last season, at the tail end of the Premier League schedule, Newcastle faced Liverpool and Manchester City in back-to-back games to wave April off and welcome May. The order is reversed this season, and Wolves made for a one-point stop between both games, but here the Magpies go again.
And the Geordies would probably like to have different results that they did achieve last campaign. Good news: they’re halfway there having drawn 3-3 against Pep’s team a week ago with Klopp ahead until all parties meet again already into the 2023 calendar year.
Two losses with a combined six goals against and none scored are now a three-to-three count with one to go this Wednesday. What will happen, though, is truly anyone’s guess after Liverpool started the season getting defeated by Manchester United, losing points to Fulham and Crystal Palace, and lastly putting nine goals past Bournemouth’s keeper last Saturday.
Here’s hoping Newcastle gets the earlier version of the Reds and not the Red-Hot one.
Let’s be honest for a minute here. Who in his right mind would have predicted such a phenomenal start to the year as that Newcastle has achieved throughout the first three weeks of competitive games? Not me.
The Magpies ended last season on a very saucy streak that saw them avoid getting relegated after a very worrying first half of Premier League football. While some optimism was reasonable, seeing the team getting the season started with a five-game (and still going) unbeaten streak is quite marvelous—but surprising, too. Considering they’ve battled and extracted positive results from top-half sides such as Manchester City and Brighton, the Geordies can’t truly ask for much more.
Liverpool, on the other hand, only seemed to get things right (very right, for that matter) this past weekend as they demolished and buried Bournemouth alive banging nine goals and doing something that has been accomplished fewer than fingers you have in one hand since the Premier League was born back in the early nineties.
Two draws and a loss to kick the year off were fixed by a Demolition Derby at home. That was a scary sighting for the Men in Black scouting. That was, also, the only thing Liverpool could do to right their wrongs after such a putrid start to the year if they wanted to avoid all sorts of criticism coming from north to south of the British land.
They very well did, of course, even though without the main man arriving in Merseyside this summer available and still suspended.
And suspended Darwin Nuñez will remain out after getting a red card and getting a three-match ban. Nuñez was, obviously, the most expensive purchase by Liverpool this summer and one very similar to that of Haaland by Manchester City. It’s the model that top-end clubs follow, and the one Newcastle aims to employ one day.
Most important, though, is the fact that Liverpool—against, same as Man. City—got to sell the likes of Sadio Mane, Neco Williams, and Takumi Minamino for large sums of money while not really noticing their absences. If Newcastle attempted that with their current crop of starters (Mane) and first off-the-bench options (Williams, Minamino) of Newcastle (ASM/Miggy and Longstaff/Willock respectively), they’d be left with a more-than-barren squad.
Howe just made it known that Isak’s availability is going down to the wire.
Eddie Howe on Alexander Isak's availability:— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 30, 2022
"I still don't know. I desperately hope so - it'd be great to see him involved. We're in the hands of other people so we hope it gets done before the game. The cut off is 75 minutes before kick-off so it could go down to the wire." pic.twitter.com/Kxgiwyx0VG
Here’s hoping. As if Geordies weren’t accustomed...
WhoScored.com best guess at the Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Reds is in, so let’s go through it.
- Not Available: Jonjo Shelvey (thigh), Callum Wilson (hamstring), Bruno (knock), Emil Krafth (Knee)
- Doubtful: Javier Manquillo (groin), Federico Fernandez (calf), Jamal Lewis (calf)
- With the latest whispers making the Dubravka-to-Manchester loan nearly official, it’s a clear path for Nick Pope to get start after start on a weekly basis for the whole season. No other option at the goal is worth using unless Pope gets injured, so this is going to be a very easy pick to make for Howe going forward.
- Matt Targett has appeared on back-to-back games as a 45-minute player both starting and off the bench, so it’d not be surprising to watch him going for 75+ minutes against Liverpool this Wednesday. That would displace Burn to the center of the defense—more about that in a minute. Kieran Trippier is a lock to man the right side of the defense, let alone with Emil Krafth being out injured for the remainder of the season. WhoScored is projecting Manquillo to start only because Tripps suffered a knock and the site has him tagged as “doubtful” for the game, which should not be enough for Howe to rest him in such a high-stakes match.
- Fabian Schar and Sven Botman are the two players on the WhoScored predicted lineup but that’s linked to Dan Burn slotting in the left-back position. Assuming Targett is available and starting, I’d bet on a center-back pairing of Schar and Burn over one featuring less experienced Botman. No flaws in Botman’s game to date, but Burn’s vast Premier League experience and understanding of opposing sides should give him the edge over Botman at least for this game.
- The midfield and forward lines are going to hurt bad for Newcastle this Wednesday at the very least. The Magpies are going to miss Bruno and Jonjo Shelvey so that removes two good starting options from the pool of available players. That leaves Joelinton as the only clear-cut pick for Howe to make. Next to him, the obvious next-in-line option would be Joe Willock (who has started all games) and after that, it’s Sean Longstaff (who most people thought of as the third-best starter above Willock no more than a month ago). Elliot Anderson was great but is far from a starting-caliber player. Matty Longstaff is definitely not one you want to have on the pitch when the first whistle gets blown.
- Miggy and Saint-Maximin will be out there on the wings and there’s nothing changing that. Almirón is a well-known lung with a bottomless fuel tank and his backtracking and defensive efforts will definitely be needed and welcomed by Newcastle if they want to extract any sort of positive result. Saint-Maximin has been unplayable for the first four games of the season and Newcastle will definitely need him to put on another efficient show to reap more rewards from this flourishing span of performances. Jacob Murphy and Ryan Fraser are available but should only come off the bench unless ASM is not fit enough to get the start after suffering a knock late in Sunday’s game.
- The forward conundrum won’t be one as long as Alexander Isak gets his visa and work permit in time. If that’s the case, Isak will most definitely play—and start—his first game for the Magpies debuting in Anfield of all places. Talk about dreams becoming realities, folks. Isak featured in a couple of La Liga games for Real Sociedad (the latest around ten days ago against Barcelona) and is coming off a scoring outing in Spain. He’s fit, ready to play, and eager to get his first Premier League minutes. Chris Wood should stay off the pitch and on the bench with Isak a much better option against Liverpool given his flexibility and adaptability to different positions and the additional dimensions he can add to the Magpies' offensive schemes. No Callum Wilson this Wednesday, so it’s slim pickings after those two.
When and Where’s flowin’
- Date: Wednesday, August 31
- Kick-off: 20:00 BST / 15:00 EST / 12:00 PST
- Location: Anfield, Liverpool (England)
- TV: BTSport.com, BT Sport Ultimate, BT Sport 1, BT Sport App (UK), USA Network, UNIVERSO, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, UNIVERSO NOW (USA), fuboTV (Canada)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.
How’s it goin’
Coming Home, Crystal Ball: Liverpool 2-1 Newcastle
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Howay the Lads!