Liverpool Club Focus - Reds facing crunch Newcastle fixture
The last time Newcastle United finished above Liverpool in the Premier League was back in the 2002-2003 season, when Sir Bobby Robson’s talented side, containing the likes of Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy and Gary Speed, secured third spot with 69 points. Meanwhile, the Reds ended the campaign in fifth place, with just five points fewer. That was nine years ago, but as things stand, the Magpies are in a strong position and could well finish ahead of the Merseysiders once again. If Kenny Dalglish’s men wish to avoid that scenario this term, then their revival will have to start at the Sports Direct Arena this weekend.
Newcastle, unbeaten in their last six home games, are currently a significant eight points ahead of the Anfield outfit, with just eight top-flight fixtures remaining this season. And while Liverpool have won six of their last seven league games against the Magpies, the Reds’ recent results have been abysmal - they have lost five of their last six Premier League matches. Worse still, Liverpool have picked up just eight points in 2012, while their upcoming opponents have collected 20. Given their poor form, this promises to be a difficult fixture for the visitors.
Should Alan Pardew’s side win, then not only will they increase the gap between themselves and Liverpool to an massive 11 points, but it would also threaten the Reds’ current position in the league. Sunderland, Everton, Swansea City and Norwich City are breathing down Liverpool’s neck and if those sides manage to pick up points themselves over the coming weeks, then Dalglish’s team could find themselves fighting for a top-half finish by the time the FA Cup semi-final comes around.
In order to avoid that situation, the likes of Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique will need to have big games in a Reds shirt when they return to face their previous club. There are suggestions that Carroll in particular may be nervous ahead of the crunch clash, but Dalglish responded by telling Liverpool’s official website: "If you weren't nervous you'd have a wee bit of a problem. In my case it was always best to be nervous rather than totally laid back. I don't think anyone can be laid back when they go and play at the club that gave him his opportunity in football and turned him into a professional footballer. For him and Jose it will be an exciting time to go back."
Meanwhile, Reds’ supporters will be hoping that some of their injured stars will be fit again in time for the game. Liverpool have missed key players in Craig Bellamy, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger of late. Bellamy, who scored twice when the two sides met back in December, had been widely praised for his performances before he picked up a calf injury, while Agger’s absence appears to have hurt the Anfield side defensively. Dalglish was tight lipped about how close the trio were to returning, but Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam will definitely miss out.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle v Liverpool