Newcastle host Liverpool at St James’ Park on Saturday evening in the Premier League. The Magpies have a chance to open up a 12-point gap over the Reds in the top-four race but a defeat would see the points difference drop to six. The Toon have lost once all season in the league and it came with a last-minute goal against Liverpool in the reverse fixture.
It has been an incredible season for Eddie Howe’s team. They have only lost one league match this term and have by far the strongest defensive record in the division with 13 goals conceded in 22 matches. However, their 11 draws is also the most so far this season with five of those in their last six Premier League matches.
After a run of six successive victories, they drew 0-0 in three of their next four league fixtures and won the other 1-0 at home to Fulham in fortunate circumstances. Then, a 3-1 aggregate win (1-0 away, 2-1 at home) in the Carabao cup semi-finals vs Southampton saw them reach the final. They then drew 1-1 at home to West Ham and 1-1 at Howe’s former club Bournemouth in a fair result.
Newcastle Team News
There are a number of injury concerns ahead of this match. Crucially, Bruno Guimares is set to be missing in midfield whilst Joe Willock did his hamstring against Bournemouth and will also miss out. Joelinton, Sean Longstaff, and Anthony Gordon could form the midfield trio for this one.
In attack, Callum Wilson missed the last match and will need a late fitness test. Both starting wingers, Miguel Almiron, and Allan Saint-Maximin went off injured but Eddie Howe is hopeful they will be fit. Alexander Isak is set to lead the line with Jacob Murphy on standby if either winger isn’t able to play.
A win here would be a massive result in the race for the top four. Spurs are only two points behind in fifth but a draw here would not be a disaster considering all the important players who could miss out due to injury.
It is expected to be a more circumspect approach due to the less solid midfield trio. Newcastle will play on the break a lot and will press less with Isak upfront than if Wilson starts.
The Reds went into Monday’s Merseyside derby on a run of just one win in seven matches in all competitions. They have been leaking goals for fun, including in a 3-1 loss at Brentford and a 3-0 defeat at Brighton. Some missed chances for the opposition saw Klopp’s team get a 0-0 home draw with Chelsea after that.
A 2-1 FA Cup loss to Brighton followed before a 3-0 defeat to a usually goal-shy Wolves, allowing six ‘big chances’ in that humbling. They looked far more like their true selves in their last match, beating Everton 2-0 as they created 2.33 xG and allowed the Toffees just six shots and 0.36 xG.
Liverpool Team News
The annual injury crisis at Liverpool is slowly easing up. Virgil Van Dijk was back amongst the subs for the last match and could even start this one. Ibrahima Konate is also nearing a return to central defence. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were back in the XI for the derby and gave a good platform to the defence but Thiago Alcantara looks likely to miss out with a hip complaint.
Up in attack, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota both returned as subs vs Everton to boost the attacking options hugely. Luis Diaz remains out injured but at least Jurgen Klopp now has alternatives to the usual front three of Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez, and Mo Salah.
Right now, Liverpool need a run of wins to get back into the race for a top-four finish. They’re currently nine points off Newcastle and know a defeat would do huge damage to their ambitions. A win would make the gap six points and foster the belief that fourth place is achievable.
The Reds will play to win this match to close the gap but it’s also a ‘must-not-lose’ so they won’t be too adventurous.
Newcastle have the EPL’s best defensive record (13 conceded in 22 matches)
Newcastle have won 6 and drawn 5 of their 11 home matches this season (league)
NUFC have drawn 5 of their last 6 EPL fixtures (all under 2.5 goals)
Liverpool are unbeaten in 5 matches at St. James’ Park (DWWDW)
Liverpool have lost 3 of their last 5 PL matches
LFC have conceded in 9 of their last 11 PL matches
This should be an intriguing match although we are not likely to see the goal fests these teams produced in yesteryear. This could be a tight, cagey match. It may be a good idea to see the Newcastle XI before betting as they have many injury doubts. A draw looks like the most likely outcome here.