That one hurt. It hurt, mostly, because it should have never happened and because everything looked ordained from the higher-up spheres.
Obviously, back in August things were pretty much up in the air when it came to where Liverpool and Newcastle would end this campaign. That can still change, of course, but things look much better for one side (sitting fourth) than the other (ninth).
You wouldn’t have guessed right had I asked who’s who back on Aug. 31, would you?
The Reds entered their home game against Newcastle coming off a 9-0 trouncing of Bournemouth. The Magpies were above Liverpool by one point, but with just four matches in the rearview mirror, it was too early to make any clear judgments.
How things developed from that point on, nobody would have accurately predicted.
No need to explain which chart belongs to each of these two teams, right? Ah, good old Pool struggling mightily...
As stale as Newcastle has been of late, not losing a Premier League game since Aug. 31 but only winning two of their last seven since returning from the World Cup break, the results have served the Magpies well in staying into the top-4 teams of the English top-flight division from MD15 on. That is something Liverpool can’t say of their season, which has been bad, to say the least, and putrid to say the most—so much so that the Reds have yet to crack the top 5 this season...
Don’t let recent results fool you, either. Pool might have won their last outing in the Premier League—against an absolutely dreadful, Gordon-deprived, third-to-last-place Everton—playing at their comfortable confines of Anfield, but prior to that Jurgen Klopp found a way to somehow harvest a sweet draw against Chelsea sandwiched between three thick slices of sour defeats: one each to Brentford, Brighton, and Wolves allowing nine goals in those three matches (three coming from each of those squads) while only scoring one goal (all the way back on Jan. 2).
Liverpool will have the luck of having some bodies getting warm at the right time, such as Virgil Van Dijk, Diogo Jota, and Roberto Firmino. All of those three either reappeared in the Merseyside derby or at least made it to the bench last Monday with large chances of playing on Saturday against the Magpies.
Real Madrid is next on Liverpool’s schedule so they might make some rotations ahead of their biggest game of the season next Tuesday with the clash against Newcastle one without much meaning for them, considering they should have already lost all hopes of qualifying for the 2023-24 Champions League campaign.
Which is to say, Real Madrid might be facing Liverpool next week but the Spanish giants are closer to meeting Newcastle in a year’s time than they are from going against Liverpool more than twice before we flip the calendar page next December.
Eddie Howe spoke to the media on Friday providing some fresh takes on Newcastle’s state of affairs just hours before today’s game.
You can read everything Howe had to say here, as part of our pre-match coverage.
FotMob.com predictions at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Reds are in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Krafth (knee), Targett (foot), Manquillo (knee), Willock (thigh), Bruno (suspended)
- Doubtful: Wilson (hamstring)
- This game might be the most interesting in terms of decisions to make by both managers. Howe will need to come up with a solution for the absences of two of his three starting midfielders (Willock and Bruno) while Klopp faces the conundrum of whether he needs/wants/can rotate his squad or not with Real Madrid coming to Anfield on Tuesday.
- In his usual press conference, Howe confirmed both ASM and Miggy for Saturday’s game. Both are available and (we assume) fit enough to start this game. If that’s the case, then you can easily pencil them in as the wingers on Newcastle’s side.
- If they are not, things would then become very interesting for the Magpies and their lineup for today’s affair. Any of these two missing on the XI would, most probably, mean that Anthony Gordon would start for whoever misses the assignment. That’d be the most obvious solution. But I wouldn’t rule out Howe’s left-hand-man Jacob Murphy to be there from the get-go.
- You have to also return to the elephant in the room here: the midfield. Longstaff and Joelinton, barring an enormous surprise and because of the lack of depth/alternatives, will occupy two of the three available positions in that part of the pitch. The other one? Bring in the question marks!
- If I was Howe, I would definitely use a double-pivot against Liverpool with Longstaff and Joelinton dropping deeper and Gordon in front of them and launching the team's offensive transitions forward. I am not Howe, though, but I know Howe enough to kinda get a feeling of what might be actually coming later today. In other words: academy product Elliot Anderson has plenty of chances of starting his first game of the season, against Liverpool of all teams.
- Anderson has played 10 games in the EPL this year logging 120 minutes. For you math wizs at home, that’s 12 minutes per game, yes, and just a one-game-and-a-third if looking at it from full-90 minutes playing time angle. The only time Anderson started was back on Jan. 7... when Newcastle lost their lone game since Aug. 31 against Liverpool and crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Sheff Wednesday. Ominous. Anderson logged six minutes against Bournemouth last weekend and 10 one week before that against West Ham.
- Callum Wilson is expected to stay out of today’s game, at least from the start. That inevitably leads to Alexander Isak starting up front as there are no alternatives at that position. Wilson should at least make the gameday squad and sit on the bench, and he might get some minutes if the game requires it.
- Joelinton has committed nine yellow-card offenses so far this season and if he sees one more today he will miss the game against Manchester City on March 4th. The Carabao Cup final is safe for all players assuming no one sees a straight red card today, which doesn’t mean Joelinton shouldn’t be careful considering how important the game against the Citizens is the 3-3 draw in the return game and Willock’s health woes.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Longstaff - Joelinton - Gordon
WNG Almiron - Saint-Maximin
- Date: Saturday, February 18th
- Kick-off: 17:30 BST / 12:30 EST
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, Peacock, SiriusXM FC, NBC, UNIVERSO NOW, UNIVERSO (USA) — Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Ultra HD, Sky Sports Premier League, SKY GO Extra, BBC Radio 5 Live (UK)
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Howay the Lads!