The dreaded international break is finally over, but it doesn’t look likely to get much easier for us Newcastle fans, with our weekend starting with a daunting trip to Anfield!
Realistically, games like this are often approached with a ‘damage limitation’ mentality, however our superb display in that 0-1 win at Spurs will give the players newfound belief that we *might* just surprise a few here.
That being said, there is now a clear gulf between the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool, with the latter being Champions League winners, title contenders, unstoppable at home, brilliant at the back and boasting one of the most formidable attacking trios in world football.
It’ll take another mammoth display from all involved if we’re to come away from this with something, so let’s hope our lads can dig in and stay disciplined throughout.
Starting at the back, the defence almost picks itself right now. Yedlin, Ritchie and Lejeune are still missing and Krafth seems to be Bruce’s first choice at right-back and ahead of Javier Manquillo in the pecking order. Willems has looked good going forward in his last two appearances, but his ability to defend will be well and truly tested against Mo Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold here!
With Sean Longstaff ruled out, Shelvey seems nailed on to get another chance in midfield. Bruce may be tempted to pack the midfield, but this is doesn’t feel like a game that suis Ki Sung-yeung – who was woeful defensively in that defeat at Norwich – and I don’t see Matty Longstaff being thrown in at the deep end just yet.
In attack, it sounds like Almiron will be OK to play despite only returning from international duty with Paraguay on Thursday. He and Atsu will need to protect Krafth and Willems out wide, but will also be tasked to use their pace at the other end hit Liverpool on the counter whenever possible. As for Joelinton, he could have a huge role to play as our lone striker. A Spurs-esque display will be needed from him if we’re to have any joy in attack, but that will be easier said than done against Virgil Van Dijk!
Preferred NUFC XI – (5-4-1) – Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton.
Stopping Salah and Mane, containing their marauding full-backs and getting past Van Dijk will be the biggest obstacles facing NUFC, but here’s a few other ‘ones to watch’ in Jurgen Klopp’s side:
Adrian – There’s not many weaknesses in this Liverpool side, but they’ve been left with a pretty ordinary goalkeeper in Adrian following a long-term injury to Alisson. He’s made the odd big mistake already, so shooting on sight and putting pressure on him from corners could pay off.
Roberto Firmino – A class act, but a player who’s often forgotten about, with Mane and Salah tending to be the two goal machines in this Liverpool side. That said, Firmino’s movement and link up play is second to none, meaning he could easily have a field day if we put too much focus on stopping Salah / Arnold and Mane / Robertson in wide areas.
Geogrinio Wijnaldum – Like it or not, the Dutchman has come on leaps and bounds since swapping Tyneside for Merseyside a few years ago. He’s no longer that player who goes missing in games and is the sort of later arriver into the box that Jonjo Shelvey mustn’t forget to track.
Predicted Liverpool XI – (4-3-3): Adrian – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson – Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Sean Longstaff will miss out after suffering a ‘freak’ ankle injury in training, while Allan Saint-Maximin (hamstring), Matt Ritchie (ankle), Andy Carroll (ankle), Dwight Gayle (calf), DeAndre Yedlin (groin) and Florian Lejeune (ACL) have also been ruled out.
Miguel Almiron returned late from international duty, but Steve Bruce’s pre-match comments suggest he’ll be fit enough to play.
Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson has been ruled out once again, but Naby Keita is back in training and in contention to play for the first time this season.
Klopp will also have to decide whether Joe Gomez or Joel Matip partners Virgil Van Dijk at centre-back.
Our 1-0 win at Spurs was outstanding, but we’ll have to be even better against Liverpool if we’re to avoid defeat here. They’re just that good.
The fact Longstaff is missing is also a blow, with his work rate and discipline off the ball superior to his likely replacement, Jonjo Shelvey.
Not only that, I struggle to see an attack minded full-back in Jetro Willems coping well with both Mo Salah and Trent Alexandr-Arnold down their right-hand side, with Sadio Mane also likely to have too much pace for Emil Krafth.
We’ve only conceded 2 goals in our last 3 games following that miserable day at Norwich, however I can’t help but fear this will be a long old afternoon at Anfield.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle
Howay the lads!