It’s that time of the week again. The ‘Opposition Opinion’ returns with thoughts from Merseyside ahead of Sunday’s game with Liverpool at St. James’.
As ever, we are looking to bring you a view from the other side before this weekend’s game, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their feelings towards NUFC, some insights into their club and their thoughts on of our upcoming game.
This week we’ve been speaking to Liverpool fan Peter, who’s had the following to say ahead of our clash with Jurgen Klopp’s men:
Q1) What have you made of your performances so far this season? I’m interested to know what sort of shape you feel Liverpool are in coming into this one?
“So far it’s been a very mixed bag.
“Performances against Hoffenheim (4-2), Arsenal (4-0) and most recently Leicester (3-2) have shown some great moments and what we have come to expect this every week in a team that, should now, be in Jurgen Klopp’s own image.
“However, and there always is with us, there have have been some shockers.
“The hammering by City away is a particular low point! Going down to 10 men makes it very hard to win away at, in my opinion, the best team in the country. This does not excuse the throwing in of the towel that happened though. It was so bad that it could leave a stain on what still has the potential to be a great season.
“Do not worry i am not a ‘this is our year’ fan (except the Suarez season!).
“As for Sunday I’m nervous. We will have got back from Russia after another frustrating evening and all that travelling could have taken it out of the boys.
“We are Liverpool though and that should not make a difference. With Coutinho back and firing anything can happen.”
Q2) What do you make of Newcastle’s current side? Who do you see as threats & is there any weak links in our team that you feel you could exploit?
“I actually lived in Newcastle for 4 years and attended a few games here and there, so I would love to see you do well!
“After a great season last year I think you really needed to improve still and with Rafa I think you will.
“I personally think Jamal Lascelles is a great player and one you can build around for years to come. After that, without having any real superstars, I just think you’re a solid side with your attack being the biggest weakness.
“Gayle is nowhere to be seen. I attended the Mitrovic’s first home start and he was sent off after 14 minutes or something ridiculous, and Joselu doesn’t scream out to me like a player who can stand up and be relied on when the going gets tough, which it will.”
Q3) Likewise, where do you feel the strengths & weaknesses lie in your Liverpool side – any players for us to watch out for on Sunday?
“Our strengths are definitely in attack. Salah has settled in better than I could ever have imagined and with him, Mane, Firmino and Coutinho I am extremely excited
“The weakness is definitely defence, but that is so obvious I’ll focus on the left edge of it specifically. Too many times have Lovren and Moreno been too far apart or have no clue where the other one is. Case and point Sevilla’s first goal in the Champions League a couple of weeks ago.
“They have no clue how to set themselves up and have given me nightmares since The Europa League Final.
“Robertson is a far superior defender to Moreno, has great delivery and has seemingly already built up an understanding with Coutinho, but he doesn’t play! His overlapping allows Mane to cut inside and still keep the width of the team. A small detail but crucial to how we want to play football. He also has a great first time cross which caused his former team mate Harry Maguire all sorts of problems against Leicester at the weekend. He is only young and still developing but for £8million in today’s market he could be an absolute steal.
“If Newcastle want anything from the game you can walk through the bus sized gap in between Moreno and Lovren and cross it in for a big man because, if you put enough of them in there, Matip can’t handle everyone.”
Q4) How do you see the match panning out? Score prediction?
“As with most matches that involve Liverpool I expect us to dominate the ball and create a lot of chances. For one reason or another however, that has not correlated into goals recently.
“St. James Park has been somewhat of a tough place for us recently though and I expect a Benitez team to be very solid and to try hit us on the break.
“We haven’t kept a clean sheet away from home since May so we will concede. Im very much a fan who has given up hope on Lovren and until we sort that problem out we are team that doesn’t care how many you score, as long as we get one more.
“Liverpool and Newcastle have created some of the best moments in the Premier League and I would love a similar game on Sunday.
“Prediction – Liverpool to win 3-2.”
Q5) How do you see both sides faring over the season? Predictions for rough league position?
“As I’ve alluded to earlier, we can still have a great year whether that be a run in the Champions league or finishing top 4 again. Man Utd, as much as it pains me to say, look very good as do City and Chelsea. That leaves us and Spurs to battle for 4th (Who are Arsenal?) and to beat them to it would be a great achievement. If that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen, the FA Cup is a must win and any knockout round win in the Champions league would be a satisfactory showing.
“I think Liverpool will finish 5th, win the FA Cup and have a few magical European nights at Anfield, beat Real Madrid and then get thumped in the quarters by the champions of Cyprus!
“Newcastle are in for a solid, yet unspectacular, year. Benitez will definitely sign some Spanish guys in January, he does it everywhere he goes, and they could turn out to be another Garcia or Alonso, but 9 times out of 10 it will be a Josemi and I think that will be the difference between 11th and 17th.
“I will stick my neck out though and say relegation is definitely not happening, I have now probably doomed you to League 1 with Sunderland in a couple of years! I think with how tight the league is at the minute 17th is possible but so is mid table. Going to make a punt on 14th though.”
Q6) Rafa Benitez – As we all know, he was the man who helped you to that famous Champions League trophy. He seems well liked on Merseyside after his six-year spell at Anfield and has since drawn comparisons between both our fanbases and cities. What are your thoughts on Rafa?
“After Instanbul, any Liverpool fan who doesn’t have a soft spot for him is lying.
“He was a great manager for us but unfortunately a few decisions about who to bring in after Alonso and Mascherano left cost him his job.
“We just didn’t seem to have the money or clout to bring in a like for like replacement and then buy really good winger.
“If that had happened we would have won another Champions League and a Premier League under him and he would have gone down as one of our greatest managers ever. “
Q7) Jonjo Shelvey – He was once tipped as a possible long term replacement for Steven Gerrard in his early days at Liverpool. What are your thoughts on him? Was there ever a moment you regretted selling him?
“The only time Jonjo Shelvey didn’t fall below any expectation I ever had for him was on an old copy of Football Manager.
“He always looked like he needed a few more seconds to do what he wanted to do with the ball and when he got tackled a couple of times he lost his head completely. Does this sound familiar? First day of the season against Spurs?
“I always think he would have been better served signing for a mid table team from Charlton and then making the step up to a Liverpool etc.
“I think leaving us has and will always be a slight on him now though and although I think he is reckless in the tackle, slow to distribute, a bad decision maker and not a fit for your team now at all since you have Merino, I wish him all the best!”
An enjoyable read with some brilliant little nuggets from Peter. It will be interesting to see just how easily we manage to get at a Liverpool defence he clearly holds in very low regard.
I also enjoyed his assessment of Jonjo Shelvey. Let us know your thoughts on those comments. Did they expose some home truths for our talented yet troublesome midfielder?
As always, we’d like to thank opposition fan Peter for his time and the entertaining and insightful read he’s given us. We look forward to seeing how we get on against his Liverpool side during this weekend’s ‘Super Sunday’ encounter at St James’.
With the delightful international break arriving next week, we’ll be back in two weeks with the thoughts of a Southampton fan ahead of our trip to St. Mary’s.