Newcastle – Liverpool (Premier League)
When the games starts on Saturday the Magpies will surely have last season’s embarrassing 6-0 against Liverpool in mind. But only for a split second, then it’s game on. Newcastle scored a 2-1 victory at Cardiff City on their last game and are hoping to cash on that. Liverpool comes to St. James Park at the top of the Premier League. But they have still to prove that this second place is more than a lucky break.
Since the season started Newcastle has been the very image of inconsistency. Every week is a new ride on the roller-coaster. Three wins and two losses, in the last five matches, and playing at home does not seem to help. Having said that, just previous to the international stop they managed a galvanizing win over Cardiff and that bought the team some time to breath.
Skipper Fabricio Coloccini is ruled out of Saturday’s clash with Liverpool with a groin injury, and so is Jonás Gutiérrez, due to personal reasons. On the bright side, Steven Taylor is available for the first time since August. Coloccini’s absence can drag Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa back into the side. But that is not the only tough decision the manager Alan Pardew has to make. Will he stick to the pair Moussa Sissoko – Cheick Tioté or will Vurnon Anita change this equation? Papiss Cissé does not score a goal in the Premier League since April. It’s a good thing that Loic Rémy has hit the ground running since he arrived at St. James Park. His 5 goals in 5 appearances in the Premier League have proved paramount to keep the Magpie’s head above water. Boss Pardew is keen on tying down Rémy to a long-term contract but the Toon’s top scorer wants to keeps is options open. The France International knows that if he keeps up his performances there won’t be a shortage of offers once the season is over.
Probable lineup: Krul – Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Steven Taylor, Davide Santon – Sissoko, Tioté, Cabaye – Ben Arfa, Cissé, Rémy.
Brendan Rodgers will have the rare opportunity of having a nearly full-strenght squad to choose from. Exceeding all expectations Liverpool arrives at St. James Park in second place, level on points with Arsenal. One could say that Man U aside the contenders they have faced were there for the picking but still, this is Premier League. In the last 5 games the Reds draw one, lost two and won other two. And are now looking for the third victory in a row.
Glen Johnson, Joe Allen and Aly Cissokho are back. According to the manager only Phillipe Coutinho is not ready to play just yet. That raises a couple of questions. Will Rodgers bring back Daniel Agger or stick to Martin Skrtel, Kolo Touré and Mamadou Sakho? Will he continue with the 3-4-1-2 or revert back to 4-2-3-1? Glen Johnson returned to full training this week and could start for the first time since early September. In case he is not entirely fit Henderson is an option for the right wing-back , making it easier for the Manager to put Lucas alongside Gerrard. The partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez up front is every Boss’s dream – they read each other’s game and mind.
Probable lineup: Mignolet – Skrtel, Touré, Sakho – Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Enrique – Moses, Sturridge, Suárez.
Considering the 10 last games between the two sides, Newcastle won 2, draw 1 and lost 7. It’s the 11th against the 2nd seed, a leaky back-line facing SAS (Sturridge and Suárez). Looks like a sure thing. But then again, this is Premier League, and until the very last second all bets are on.