Fresh from all the “mass hysteria” and “ridiculous histrionics” over the past week, Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United welcome Liverpool to St James’ Park.
The Reds currently sit top of the Premier League and won their last away game by SEVEN goals to nil, however West Brom’s 1-1 draw at Anfield just a few days ago proves they can be stopped.
Will Steve Bruce be able to follow in Big Sam’s footsteps and nullify their threats? Will he surprise us and have a go? Or will it be another damage limitation job that sees us look petrified to get out of our own half?
Well, according to his Tuesday morning press conference he’s hoping we “roll our sleeves up and shut a few people up”. Inspiring and charming stuff.
We can’t go toe to toe with Klopp’s men – that would only end one way – but Liverpool will arrive on Tyneside with ZERO fit centre-backs on Wednesday, with Van Dijk and Gomez long-term absentees and Matip also ruled out after limping over the weekend.
The height of Bruce’s ambitions may be to just keep us in the league and hope for the best when we play the big guns, but it would be nice to see us actually have a go and give fans sat on their sofas something to enjoy.
We don’t expect to win every week, but it would be nice to see us try to – especially when the opposition will be forced to field a midfielder and one of their U-23 talents at the back!
The bad news is that Saint-Maximin (Covid after effects) and Fraser (groin) remain out, however it looks as though Wilson will be fit to return.
Dummett and Hendrick are both unwell, Lascelles is ‘making inroads’ but unlikely to return in time and Shelvey appears to be touch and go, with him back in training but “very sore” a month on from a groin operation.
The lack of updates on Dubravka also suggests this one will come too soon for the Slovakian – despite him being back on the grass over the past week – however Manquillo could be one to watch after he too returned to training recently.
For the visitors, they’ll be without Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip at the back, missing Naby Keita in midfield and Jota in attack, however Milner and Shaqiri could return to the squad after spells on the sidelines.
Predicted line up
(5-4-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Lewis – Murphy, Hayden, M Longstaff, Almiron – Wilson.
OUT – Ritchie, Yedlin, Joelinton?
IN – Lewis, Manquillo, Wilson?
It seems Lascelles won’t be ready to return for this one and Dummett isn’t well, so it seems likely that Bruce goes with the same three centre-backs. Hayden could slot in if Schar can’t play twice in a few days, but the former may be needed in midfield for this one.
With Ritchie struggling at Man City and not having the pace to cope with the likes of Mo Salah, I can see Jamal Lewis coming back in after a rest over the weekend. That said, the former Norwich star will need to be more more switched on if he’s to play against the Egyptian goal machine!
At right wing-back, Yedlin actually did ok at Man City, however I’ve noticed that Manquillo has been in training for over a week now. With Krafth taking a while to recover from COVID and Murphy needed out wide now ASM and Fraser are out, I think the Spaniard may make a surprise return to the starting XI. Considering he’s proven himself to be our best right-back in recent years, it would be a boost IF he’s fit enough!
In midfield, Bruce would be silly to bring Shelvey straight back in to play against his former club. Not only has he got a “very sore” groin after “playing too many games” (Bruce’s comments after the City defeat), he’s not a player who can offer the intensity and energy needed to cope with an industrious Liverpool midfield.
Matty Longstaff actually did little wrong at Man city, especially considering it was his first Premier League start of the season, so it would be very harsh if he was to drop out of the side. Hayden may well need a rest, meaning Sean could come back in, however I’d like to see him partner Matty again if he’s ok to go again.
In attack, Wilson seems almost certain to return up top and Jacob Murphy deserves another shot out wide after being by far our most promising attacker at The Etihad.
Almiron was sloppy at the weekend and at fault for their second goal, but he seems likely to start out wide (if it’s another 5-4-1), with Joelinton lacking the pace to hurt Liverpool on the counter and ASM and Fraser ruled out.
We all know about the goal machine that’s Mo Salah, the devastatingly dynamic Sadio Mane, unstoppable Andy Robertson and creative force that is Trent Alexander-Arnold, but here’s a few other ones to watch in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side:
Phillips / Williams – With Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip all ruled out, it’ll be either 19-year-old Rhys Williams or U-23 talent Nat Phillips who start alongside Fabihno at centre-back. This may be the Premier League champions we’re facing, but we’ll never get a better chance to get at them defensively.
Takumi Minamino – The Japanese attacker has struggled since he arrived from Red Bull Salzburg this time last year, but he put in arguably his best performance as a Liverpool player in their 7-0 win at Crystal Palace, opening the scoring and creating space for others with intelligent movement. With him likely to be recalled, he could be one to watch.
Xherdan Shaqiri – With so many sides forced to rotate over the hectic festive period, we could well see the likes of Shaqiri of Oxlaide Chamberlain get a rare start for the Reds. Shaqiri is a clever player whose technical ability and craft could be used to find gaps in our likely low block.
Predicted Liverpool XI: (4-2-1-3): Alisson – Alexander-Arnold – Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson – Henderson, Wijnaldum – Shaqiri – Salah, Firmino, Minamino.
Wilson may be back and could be a handful for one of Liverpool’s young centre-backs, but I’m not convinced we’ll set up in a way that allows him to!
Liverpool will be looking to respond to that drab display in a 1-1 draw with West Brom over the weekend and I don’t see us having the answers at either end to stop them doing exactly that.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Liverpool