After such a shocking display against a bottom of the table Fulham side just a few days ago, it’s fair to say we’ll have to be much, much better if we’re to get anything against the league leaders in this one.
On the plus side, we’ve been much better on the road this season, and one of the only positive statistics to come from Saturday’s dismal performance was the fact only Liverpool, City, Spurs and Chelsea have kept more clean sheets than us so far, but it’s hard to see how we can keep this Liverpool side out – even if they rest a few of their big guns.
Liverpool will now have to manage the fact they are no longer the chasers – with them now the leaders and 4 points clear after City’s slip up over the weekend – but there’s real spirit, solidarity and confidence about them this season, so I’m not banking on any real complacency here.
Like last season, it may be a case of giving our all to keep the score respectable in a bid to protect our goal difference – which is both a sad reflection of what Rafa must resort to in our circumstances and the reality of just how good this Liverpool side are.
As ever, here’s the team I’d like to see, followed by the side I expect Rafa to go with:
With Ki away and Shelvey unlikely to be fit it’s either Hayden or Longstaff who could partner Diame. I’m almost certain Rafa will play Hayden, but we need a player who’s comfortable on the ball next to Diame, and Longstaff has always looked exactly that whenever I’ve watched him. It’d be throwing him in the deep end a little, but I don’t see how we’re keeping the ball or moving forward at all from midfield if Diame and Hayden play together.
I can see Murphy and Muto playing. Both could give us pace, energy and an outlet on the break, and the fact they’re fresh could be a big help given Benitez is likely to rotate. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Muto leads the line as he did at Man Utd, with there being an argument to rest Rondon for a more winnable game at Watford on Saturday.
At the back, Lascelles looks a little off the pace to me so I’d be tempted to put Ritchie in as a left-wing back, with Dummett, Fernandez and Schar as our three centre-backs and Yedlin as a potential attacking outlet on the right-side of a back five.
Predicted NUFC team – (5-2-2-1) – Dubravka – Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett – Diame, Hayden – Murphy, Atsu – Muto.
Aside from the obvious attacking trio, here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in this Liverpool side:
Xherdan Shaqiri – He’s likely to play with rotation very likely. He’s got a lot of quality and has always delivered when given a chance by Klopp this season. He’ll be out to seize his opportunity once again.
Georginio Wijnaldum – Likely to be recalled after missing the win at Wolves last week. His all round game has improved so much since he left us a few years ago.
Alberto Moreno – I’m hoping Robertson is rested and Moreno comes in. He’ll fly forward but he’s very suspect defensively whenever I’ve watched him. He could be one to get at IF Klopp rests Robertson.
Predicted Liverpool XI – (4-2-3-1): Alisson – Clyne, Lovren, Van Dijk, Moreno – Henderson, Wijnaldum – Shaqiri, Firmino, Mane – Sturridge.
Ki is now away with South Korea ahead of the Asian Cup and it’s likely that this one comes too soon for Shelvey, so Diame and Hayden could start in midfield. Yedlin is likely to return at right-back and it wouldn’t surprise me if Muto and Murphy feature.
For them, Gomez and Matip have left them fairly short at CB – meaning there could be somewhat of a make-shift defence IF Klop decides to rest Lovren or Van Dijk. Alexander Arnold could return for the Reds, with the likes of Moreno Lallana, Sturridge and Shaqiri in contention to be given rare starts.
We don’t often concede more than two, but we’ve scored 14 goals all season, so I struggle to see a game where we both keep them out whilst managing to pose a threat at the other end.
I see them rotating quite a bit and being a little below their free-flowing and fluid best as a result, but I still can’t see past a comfortable win for them.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle
Howay the lads!