Liverpool have made a patchy start to the season but will hope to move into the top ten of the Premier League by emerging victorious when they host Newcastle at Anfield on Sunday (4pm GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The Reds began the season with two draws and three defeats but have since gone four unbeaten, recording two wins and two draws that have elevated them to the 12th in the table on 10 points, three shy of Sunday’s visitors.
Liverpool secured a point from the Merseyside derby last weekend in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Everton that would have seen all three points go their way had Luis Suarez’s late winner not been incorrectly ruled out for offside. Such a result would have been unfair on their hosts, who had the better of the match, bossing possession and creating the better chances.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has since suffered the ignominy of being eliminated from the Capital One Cup by his former employers Swansea, Liverpool putting in an abject performance in losing 3-1 at Anfield on Wednesday.
Rogers had hoped to give key players Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard a proper rest in midweek. Both have started all of Liverpool’s Premier League matches and a fair number of their Europa League matches. With cover light up front, Suarez is particularly valuable. Rodgers was, however, forced to bring both on at half-time with Liverpool trailing 1-0, although their introduction did little to turn the tie in the team’s favour.
Regular starting midfielder Joe Allen played the full 90 minutes on Wednesday, but most of those involved will drop out of the starting eleven on Sunday. Regular goalkeeper Pepe Reina, has recovered from injury and will probably take Brad Jones’ place between the sticks. Glen Johnson is doubtful, while Fabio Borini and Lucas Leiva are both ruled out.
Newcastle were not involved in midweek action having been knocked out of the Capital One Cup in an earlier round and will therefore come fresh into Sunday’s match. Alan Pardew has spoken of his delight at getting a full week on the training pitch to prepare, having become accustomed to the interruption of Thursday night Europa League action so far this season.
There is some doubt over the participation of Newcastle’s top goalscorer Demba Ba, who is 50/50 to recover from a lower leg injury. Whether or not he plays could have an effect on how Newcastle elect to set-up.
Pardew has played a 4-4-2 in almost all of this season’s matches, a formation that has drawn seven goals from Ba, but at the same time throttled the output of his Senegal compatriot Papiss Demba Cisse.
Cisse scored 13 goals in 14 appearances at the back end of last season after signing for the club in January, thriving in the central striker role in a 4-3-3. He has scored just once in the 4-4-2 this season, the injury time winner in last weekend’s 2-1 home victory over West Bromwich Albion.
If Ba does not play on Sunday, Pardew has the option of pushing Hatem Ben Arfa forward and introducing Gabriel Obertan to play a 4-3-3, or can bring in Shola or Sammy Ameobi to play alongside Cisse in a continuation of the 4-4-2 he has favoured so far this campaign. The 4-3-3 would have the added advantage of giving Newcastle an extra man in central midfield to break up Liverpool’s passing game.
One man who will not be part of the Newcastle midfield is Cheikh Tiote, who is currently serving a suspension following his sending off against Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby. James Perch did a good job of deputising for Tiote in the win over West Brom, but will face competition from Vurnon Anita for a place alongside Yohan Cabaye in the starting eleven.
Liverpool v Newcastle Betting Tips Verdict
Newcastle look to get the ball forward quickly down the flanks in a similar fashion to Everton and it will be interesting to see whether Liverpool’s defence can cope better with this kind of threat than they did in last weekend’s derby.
Liverpool will need to exert control over possession far more effectively than they were able to against the Toffees, whose efficient pressing of their defence prevented Rogers’ side from passing out from the back in the manner he would have liked them to.
This will be an evenly-contested encounter, albeit one in which goals should be scored as neither team is water-tight defensively. Newcastle have drawn all their last three away matches and we fancy them to repeat the trick on Sunday.