High-flying Liverpool travel to St James’ Park this weekend hoping for a repeat of the stunning 6-0 victory they achieved against Alan Pardew’s Magpies last term.
Prior to that clash with the then relegation-threatened North East side, most of the media and fans’ focus was on how the Reds would cope without Uruguayan star Luis Suarez, who was handed a lengthy suspension following an altercation with Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in the club’s previous Premier League game.
However, despite losing the services of his star striker, Brendan Rodgers’ side earned a highly-satisfying win to kick-start a terrific run of form which has continued into the current campaign and sees the Anfield outfit sit joint-top of the table.
Of course, as the former Swansea manager pointed out in his pre-match press conference, Liverpool will not beat Newcastle by six goals to nil every time, but given that the Reds are in such confident mood and have both Daniel Sturridge and the excellent Suarez in wonderful goal scoring form, there would be no real surprises if the Merseysiders were to record another emphatic victory.
Perhaps one minor disappointment for Rodgers will be that his side have looked somewhat more vulnerable in defence in recent weeks – Liverpool began the league season with three consecutive clean-sheets, but have conceded a goal in every game since September 1. The fact that full-backs Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho are due to return to the squad this weekend after absences caused by injury will come as a boost to the Reds’ boss.
Whether this will mean a switch from the current 3-5-2 formation currently being utilised by the Anfield side remains to be seen – though with the number of centre-backs at Rodgers’ disposal, it is more likely that he will simply place the attack-minded Johnson in the right wing-back role instead of Jordan Henderson or Raheem Sterling, who have at times been asked to play in that position.
And while Brazilian magician Philippe Coutinho is still unavailable, the return of midfielder Joe Allen will be greeted positively by the manager. Allen, the former Swansea player, was signed by Rodgers soon after he arrived at the club last summer, but patchy form and a lengthy injury have hindered the start to his Liverpool career.
The Welshman actually performed superbly in his first few games in a Red shirt and a return to those displays would certainly help the Merseysiders’ cause, particularly given the relative lack of options in the central midfield area.
Steven Gerrard, whose midweek goal secured England’s place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, too, deserves a mention. The Liverpool and England skipper needs just one more successful strike to reach 100 goals in the Premier League. Based on the Reds’ current form and their memorable trip to Newcastle last term, not many would bet against Gerrard achieving that feat this weekend.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle