Newcastle travel to Anfield at the weekend without midfielder Stephen Ireland who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. The loanee picked up an ankle injury against Blackpool in the Magpies’ last outing and the damage was enough to end his season prematurely. In total Ireland has made just the two substitute appearances since arriving on Tyneside in January. A succession of ailments and problems off the field has meant the Aston Villa owned player has struggled to make an impact in the north east. In Ireland’s two appearances for Newcastle he showed some moments of quality but it remains to be seen whether he will return next season. It would be a major gamble on the part of Alan Pardew to bring in Ireland permanently from the evidence of what he has seen so far.
Historically the Liverpool-Newcastle fixture has been one of the standout matches in the Premier League and it has been given extra spice due to the transfer of Andy Carroll to Merseyside in January. The £35 million deal on transfer deadline day shocked the nation and caused uproar on Tyneside. Newcastle will feel that their gamble paid off as they have managed to all but secure their league status for next season despite fielding a much weakened attack over the past three months. Carroll has scored two league goals in five outings since joining the Reds in an injury disrupted start at Anfield. He is a doubt for Sunday’s match with a knee problem with Liverpool unwilling to risk their record signing unless he is 100% match fit.
Aside from Ireland Newcastle have no fresh injury concerns as they look to return to a place in the top half of the table. Pardew may name the same starting XI as against Blackpool with few other alternatives in the squad to turn to. Tim Krul should continue in goal after impressing on his return to the side. When the two teams met earlier in the season Newcastle were 3-1 winners in Pardew’s first ever game in charge. Much has changed since then but Pardew will feel content with the job he has done up to now. Much to the frustration of Newcastle fans key pair Jose Enrique and Joey Barton have been linked with moves to Liverpool in the press in recent weeks.
Captain Kevin Nolan is set to prolong his stay with the club by signing a contract extension in the near future. Nolan has been a key performer for the past two seasons and his 12 goals this campaign have underlined his importance to the present team. In an interview with the Evening Chronicle he said: “Negotiations are at an advanced stage. Most things have been agreed and I would think I will sign next week or the week after. The gaffer and the board have been great about it. It’s almost done and dusted.” As a key part of the dressing room Nolan committing himself to the Magpies could help to encourage others to also commit their futures to the club.