Newcastle United can move out of the relegation zone for 24 hours at least if Rafael Benitez can mastermind a victory away to his former club Liverpool, who are finishing the season exceptionally strongly.
If the dramatic Europa League victory over Borussia Dortmund was not enough, Liverpool supporters were given even more to savour as they breezed to a 4-0 success in what has to be one of, if not the most one-sided match in Merseyside derby history.
The second half of that match was spent simply toying with Everton after they were reduced to 10 men, racking up the attempts on goal and leaving onlookers in doubt as to which of the two teams is currently in the better shape. Indeed, the only negative on a night where goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was a virtual spectator, was seeing in-form Divock Origi go off with an injury.
For this one, eyes will be cast towards the Europa League semi-final first leg with Villarreal, but not that it guarantees a below-par performance, with much-changed line-ups having got the better of Stoke City and Bournemouth on the previous two weekends. It cannot be forgotten either that the Reds still have something to play for in the league as the race to qualify for continental football next season becomes ever more intriguing.
There is hope now for Newcastle as they have collected four points from two home outings, with the impact of Benitez’ arrival now beginning to tell. A highly convincing win over Swansea City was followed by an even better display in holding Manchester City on Tuesday, where they were especially unlucky as the goal they conceded was clearly offside.
The big difference in that game was that the Magpies played with the intensity that has been so badly lacking for much of the season, and got their reward for it. As a result the crowd got behind them and the players thrived, with Vurnon Anita showing the confidence to cut inside and score a goal that could be vital to their hopes of staying up.
Benitez has earned the acclaim of the club’s supporters very quickly, and so will hear his name sung from all four stands at Anfield. The Spaniard will always hold affection for the club with which he won the Champions League, but his sole objective on Saturday will be to pick up another positive result for Newcastle.
Origi will miss out here for Liverpool along with fellow Belgian striker Christian Benteke, so Daniel Sturridge will lead the line here.
Daryl Janmaat and Fabricio Coloccini are still unavailable for Newcastle, but left-back Kevin Mbabu is back in contention after injury.
Last Meeting: Newcastle offered little resistance in a low-key victory 2-0 victory for Liverpool in April 2015, with Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling getting the goals. Allen responded quickest to a loose ball inside the penalty area to grab the opener, while Sterling cut inside and curled home after the break to wrap up the win.
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