After a week that saw the shameful European Super League dominate the headlines, we travel to take on one of the main culprits in Liverpool this weekend.
Safety is not certain, but results over the past three weeks have given us some much needed breathing space at the bottom, with our 3-2 win over West Ham handing us an eight-point lead over 18th place Fulham.
With seven points gained in our last three and back-to-back wins under our belt, we arrive on Merseyside with a spring in our step and newfound belief against a Liverpool side who’ve proven to be very beatable – especially at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp’s side stopped the rot last weekend with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa, but prior to that they’d lost their last SIX homes games, with the likes of Burnley, Brighton, Fulham and Everton picking up wins without conceding along the way.
The Reds have steadied the ship in recent weeks, however we go into this one with a point to prove after the ESL saga, a fit Allan Saint-Maximin and a side fresh from beating 4th place West Ham last time out.
- Allan Saint-Maximin – Declared fit to play after overcoming a swollen ankle that forced him off last weekend.
- Callum Wilson – Absent from training photos on Thursday, but Bruce has confirmed ‘perfectly OK’ and fit for tomorrow.
- Fabian Schar – Returned to contact training this week for the first time since knee surgery, however Bruce thinks this one will come too soon for the centre-back.
- Ryan Fraser – Set for ‘two to three weeks’ on the sidelines after undergoing groin surgery.
- Karl Darlow – Another who is set for a ‘few weeks’ out after having an operation on his knee.
- Jamaal Lascelles – Likely to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his foot.
- Isaac Hayden – Ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
For the visitors, centre-back Nat Phillips has been ruled out – meaning Fabinho may be forced to fill in – while Diogo Jota has also been passed fit despite fears he’d sat out of training on Thursday.
Bruce has TWO big selection dilemmas coming into this one.
Does he bring fit-again Callum Wilson back in from the start or stick with Joelinton – the in-form Brazilian who’s bagged two goals in his last three and looked all the better for it.
Then to midfield, should Joe Willock be recalled after yet another crucial cameo? Jonjo Shelvey seems nailed on under Bruce, but it would be harsh if one of Sean Longstaff or Miguel Almiron lost their place after doing little wrong…
(5-3-2): Dubravka – Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie – S Longstaff, Shelvey (c), Almiron – Saint-Maximin, Wilson.
Joelinton OUT, Wilson IN? – This would be harsh on our £40m man after a few much improved displays in our past two home games, but we all saw what a difference it made when we had ASM and Wilson on the pitch at Burnley; our last away game. Wilson needs start to get back up to speed and I can see him coming back in here, especially when we’ll need to be clinical if we’re to get anything at Anfield.
S Longstaff OUT, Willock IN? – The former has done little wrong since returning to the side, however the Arsenal loanee came off the bench to brilliant effect once again last weekend and will need to believe he’s a regular in Bruce’s side if he’s to stay at St James’ Park next season. He also can’t play against parent club Arsenal next Sunday, so I feel he’ll be recalled here. I’d prefer to see Shelvey drop out, but with him an ever-present when fit and captain in Lascelles’ absence, he’s almost certain to start.
I think we’ll have a go here – we no longer playing with fear and know another result could all but secure survival – however Liverpool will be looking to bounce back after a late Leeds goal saw them drop two points in midweek.
ASM, Wilson and Almiron can cause havoc on the counter and our back five could frustrate a Reds attack that’s been well below its fluid best of late, but I do feel they’ll dominate the midfield battle and outscore us comfortably in the end.
Although their front four are frighteningly good on their day, the key could be stopping an in-form Alexander Arnold – who has been their main creative force from right-back and back to his best of late.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle