Premier League 17/18 Week 29: Liverpool vs Newcastle United -Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Liverpool’s past meets Liverpool present as Rafael Benitez brings his Magpies to Merseyside
17:30 GMT, Saturday 3rd March, Anfield (Liverpool, England) BT Sport
As the Premier League’s form team, Liverpool will be a formidable opponent for the Magpies this weekend and head into this fixture with an unbeaten home record in the league this season. Only 2 points off second and 4 points better than fifth-place Chelsea, the Red surge has carried Jurgen Klopp’s side into a strong position in the table. But while Liverpool have swept to a series of impressive wins recently, their fallibility to defeat teams they’re expected to beat has not completely disappeared.
Rafa Benitez may hold Liverpool close to his heart after delivering the Champions League trophy to Anfield during his tenure, however, that’s unlikely to deter him from trying to inflict misery on the club this weekend. His efforts at Newcastle this season have largely resembled a high-wire act but his balancing skills have them sitting on the right side of the line. With only a single defeat from their last 8 league games, the Magpies have proven more solid than they seemed at the end of 2017, however, anything gained this weekend will be looked upon as a bonus in a campaign which is sure to go right down to the wire.
Last Time Out
Liverpool 4-1 West Ham United (Premier League)
Jurgen Klopp described his side’s performance as a rarely achieved, “joy to watch” as their attacking fluidity destroyed the side rooted to the foot of the table. The Hammers started the match with determination, however, the Reds stood strong to the initial forays by their visitors. While Emre Can’s header on the half-hour put his side firmly in charge, it did not break the Hammers spirit.
The second half saw Liverpool step up their intensity in the game and it proved far too much for West Ham to handle. Looking like they would score with every attack, the Reds quickly added two more goals before Michail Antonio pulled a goal back for his side. Liverpool continued to dominate, however, and while Sadio Mané was the only player able to add to the scoreline, the 4-1 result did not flatter the home team.
Bournemouth 2-2 Newcastle United (Premier League)
The Magpies snatched a draw from the jaws of victory as they threw away two crucial points in the final 10 minutes. Having dominated the game for the previous 80 minutes, it would definitely have felt like a defeat in the dressing room after the match.
Two goals from Dwight Gayle had provided a great platform for the Magpies to win the game, however, an inability to convert golden opportunities again cast a shadow over Newcastle’s season. Misses from Ayoze Pérez and then Jonjo Shelvey were ruthlessly punished by the Cherries who struck twice themselves to even the scoreline. While many Newcastle fans laid the blame for defeat at the feet of Shelvey who failed to track his marker in the closing minutes of the match, it was later revealed he had picked up an injury which asks why Benitez opted to remove Matt Ritchie from the game rather than the central midfielder.
Nathaniel Clyne (muscular) is joined by Georginio Wijnaldum (illness) and James Milner (knock) in the physio room at Anfield but Klopp has no other problems ahead of the tie. While Liverpool have a Champions League match against Porto in the coming week, their healthy lead from the first leg affords them to play a strong side this weekend as they look to continue their red-hot form.
Islam Slimani will continue to sit on the sidelines for the Magpies as he struggles to shake the thigh injury which has blighted his loan-spell so far. Jonjo Shelvey (knee) will also join Jesús Gámez (ankle) but there are no other worries for Benitez other than the journey to Merseyside itself.
Key Battle: Sadio Mané (Liverpool) vs Matt Ritchie (Newcastle)
Of all the players in Liverpool’s squad, Mané has perhaps been the only player to have underperformed relative to expectations this season. The Senegalese forward is finding his feet this season and, more importantly for the Reds, he’s also finding the net. A hat-trick against Porto in the Champions League adds to the goal he scored last weekend and he could yet play a defining role in their season.
On the right wing for Newcastle will be another player that has not delivered the expected goals from his position this season. Ritchie is known more as an industrious player who can deliver a fine dead-ball and he has often contributed goals and assists throughout his career. His goal against Manchester United in the game before last was his first strike of the season which came after 43 shots on goal. With 12 goals in the Championship last season, Ritchie’s 7 assists this season was hoped to be accompanied by another healthy contribution this season. Now that the seal has been broken, he may well see his hard work rewarded with more goals in the near future.
Boring but vital
Liverpool’s man-of-the-match last weekend is also a player who has largely flown under the radar for the Reds this season. While not a high-profile player with a marketable persona, James Milner was vital to the team’s collective efforts in producing a scintillating display which earned them another three points.
While only 32-years-old, Milner seems to have been in the game longer than his age suggests, however, it was more than just experience he brought to the side. Milner covered more ground than any other player on the pitch against West Ham and had more of the ball than any other player with 9.7% of possession. While he may carry the image of a boring personality, his lively display was at the opposite end of this spectrum and proved instrumental in bringing his team’s success.
A winter break
Following a journey which will be anything but easy for Newcastle and their fans this weekend, the Magpies game at Southampton next weekend will be their last fixture until the final day of March when they host Huddersfield.
This 21-day break comes as a result of them being out of the FA Cup while their scheduled opponents remain in the competition. This will be hugely helpful to Benitez who is set to be without both Shelvey and Slimani for the next few weeks. With both players potentially huge to the Magpies hopes of keeping their top-flight status, this is one winter break which the Newcastle fans can all agree is of benefit to their team.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez has the experience necessary to make life difficult for Liverpool in this fixture, however, he lacks the quality in his squad that is needed to make a strong impact in the league this season. As a side who have taken the lead in 3 of their last 4 matches but only won 1 of them, there could be a similar story this weekend with the Reds likely to overpower their visitors before the final whistle.