St James’ Park is becoming a fortress again, making Saturday’s early kick off with Liverpool an occasion not to be missed for so many reasons.
Not only could we dent their title hopes with another big result, but Eddie Howe could become the first Newcastle manager in almost 20 years to make it SEVEN home wins on the spin.
We’ve won our last six games on Tyneside, haven’t lost a Premier League match at St James’ Park since Man City beat us 4-0 in mid December and have never conceded more than one goal on home turf since the turn of the year.
Liverpool are a winning machine and the most relentless side in world football these days, but Wednesday night’s Champions League semi-final against Villarreal was their fourth game in 11 days.
With Eddie’s Mags now up to 9th, way clear of trouble and able to play without fear in these final few games of the season, this will not be an easy away day for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds!
The atmosphere promises to be electric – no matter what happens – and the game a test of just how far we’ve come against arguably the best side in Europe.
Kieran Trippier (foot), Callum Wilson (calf/achilles) and Ryan Fraser (hamstring) have all been ruled out once again, with the latter deemed unlikely to play again this season.
The game comes too soon for Trippier despite him returning to training this week and there’s no other injury issues to report.
For the Reds, Klopp could be forced to rotate given this game comes in between Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final tie with Villarreal. Roberto Firmino has been ruled out, while Kostas Tsimikas and Curtis Jones are doubts through illness.
Predicted line ups
(4-3-3): Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Burn, Targett – Guimaraes, Shelvey, Joelinton – Almiron, Wood, Saint-Maximin.
Martin Dubravka – Might be a bit busier here than he’s been in recent weeks, so let’s hope he can stand up to the test! He’s certainly not let us down of late, conceding just ONCE in our last four games.
Emil Krafth – Ahead of Javier Manquillo in the pecking order and has played a big part in us keeping three clean sheets in our last four. With Trippier still out, I expect the Swede to keep his place.
Fabian Schar – Was rested at Norwich but will almost certainly come back in here. Fresh from signing a new deal on Friday and forming a formidable partnership with Dan Burn. That said, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Howe went with a three-man defence featuring him, Lascelles and Burn.
Dan Burn – Recovered from a slightly shaky start at Norwich and helped us to a rare clean sheet on the road. Will have his hands full tomorrow with the likes of Jota, Salah and Mane, however he’s often been unflappable at SJP.
Matt Targett – Playing for a permanent deal and could face his toughest test yet in this one, with Alexander-Arnold and Salah likely to start down Liverpool’s right.
Jonjo Shelvey – Was handed a rest by Howe at Carrow Road and looks set to return here against his former club. Hopefully he can continue to show how much his work off the ball has improved against a relentless Reds midfield.
Bruno Guimaraes – No Premier League midfielder has has scored more goals, made more tackles or completed more dribbles than this man since his first start for NUFC. We may need a bit of all three here if we’re to avoid defeat!
Joelinton – Will be bursting with confidence after last week’s brace, but seems likely to drop back into a midfield role that sees him protect Targett and cover for Allan Saint-Maximin down our left-hand side.
Miguel Almiron – Was unlucky to be benched at Norwich, however he seems likely to return now Fraser could be out for the remainder of the season. Hopefully builds on that stunning goal he scored against Palace!
Allan Saint-Maximin – Showed glimpses of improvement over the last two games but desperately needs a goal. Howe will be way of him playing down the side Alexander-Arnold and Salah attack, however it’s a risk-reward move that could work well if he gets space at the other end.
Chris Wood – Has looked leggy of late, so that rest last weekend may have done him the world of good. If there’s ever a day we needed him to win his battles, work hard for the team and do his job in both boxes, it’s this one!
Predicted Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson – Salah, Jota, Mane.
I think we might just give Liverpool a bit of a scare in this one.
You won’t find betting statistics suggesting this, with many pricing us at 7/1 to win, however I’m expecting this to be anything but comfortable for the Reds.
Reluctantly, I back the hosts to edge it in the end, as Klopp’s Reds are winning machines that always seem to find a way, but I reckon we’ll feed off the atmosphere, take the game to a potentially tired Liverpool side and make it very difficult for them to find a way through.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Liverpool