Following the morale boosting victory in the Merseyside derby, Liverpool travel to St. James Park hoping to rekindle their top four hopes. The Magpies are flying high this campaign as they currently sit fourth on the table, nine points clear of the Reds. Here’s the match preview. 

Monday night was the perfect riposte as Everton were turned over in the derby. Anfield lived up to it’s reputation by producing a raucous atmosphere ahead of kickoff and indeed throughout the game. Jürgen Klopp’s men started tentatively as the Toffees game plan became apparent.

Sean Dyche had set his team up to sit deep and frustrate. The time wasting tactics were in effect from the very first whistle, with Andre Onana in midfield tasked with breaking up play by any means, fair or foul.

The visitors plan was working smoothly till they flew too close to the sun and got scorched. A corner saw James Tarkowski go close to handing Everton the lead when his header cannoned back off the upright before the subsequent rebound was blocked.

The Blues had piled too many men forward for that set piece, leaving themselves open on the break. Darwin Nunez raced clear and clipped a cross for Salah to tap home. That was the tonic the side and the fans needed as Anfield roared with passion.

The second half saw Robertson lead the charge for another deadly counter, this time with Cody Gakpo applying the finishing touch. Confidence was now coursing through the veins of those in red, with the return to action of Jota and Firmino (and Van Dijk who remained an unused sub) fuelling the feel-good factor.

That victory only moved the Reds up one place in the table into ninth place, but it is a starting point. Liverpool are nine points off Saturday’s opponents but with a game in hand. There is a clear task ahead; beat Newcastle and revive the top four race.

For several weeks (that have felt like months), it has seemed like the season was already over. With the Reds exiting both domestic Cup competitions and falling so far off the Premier League summit and indeed top four, it was difficult to really get up for matches.

Now there is a sense of purpose. The next two games will decide the rest of the season. Newcastle on Saturday and Real Madrid on Tuesday. A top four charge and a last chance of silverware for the campaign.

Liverpool simply have to beat the Magpies tomorrow to have any realistic chance at the top four. That is no mean feat considering Eddie Howe’s men are unbeaten at the St. James Park this season. In fact Liverpool are the only side to inflict defeat on the Geordies all campaign.

Across all competitions it’s just the two defeats, with Sheffield Wednesday knocking Newcastle out of the FA Cup last month. The Magpies are hard to beat and notoriously hard to break down. It took a 98th minute winner by Fabio Carvalho to turn them over at Anfield back in August.

Aleksander Isak handed Newcastle the lead at Anfield that night with a debut goal before the Reds fought back to claim all three points. You’d expect it to be a similar ding dong affair this time round. Just as Jürgen Klopp’s side look to be turning a corner, Newcastle seem to have hit a bit of a rough patch.

Since a convincing 3-0 win at Leicester on Boxing Day, Eddie Howe’s charges have only managed to win one of six league games, with that victory a narrow 1-0 win over Fulham. The Magpies have only found the back of the net three times in those six games.

Crucially, they’ve only let in two goals in that run, with their record of 13 goals conceded far and away the best in the division. They have drawn a whopping eleven matches this campaign (the most in the division) and are currently on a three game winless streak.

Jürgen Klopp’s only defeat to Newcastle came in his very first campaign, with a Gini Wijnaldum inspired Magpies romping to a 2-0 home victory. Since then, it’s twelve unbeaten (8 wins, 4 draws) against the Geordies.

In last season’s corresponding fixture, a classy Naby Keita goal saw the Reds leave St. James Park with all three points. A repeat of that result tomorrow is the aim, with Newcastle possibly distracted by the looming League Cup final, their first final in God knows how long.

Liverpool have to take advantage of any lack of focus in this top four six pointer.

Team News

Konaté (hamstring), Thiago (hip), Luis Diaz (knee) and Calvin Ramsay (meniscus) remain on the sidelines. Diogo Jota and Firmino returned to action last week and should be joined by Van Dijk and Arthur Melo in the matchday squad tomorrow.

Newcastle on the other hand, will be without the influential Bruno Guimaraes as he serves suspension, Emil Krafth (ligament), Javier Manquillo (muscle) and Matt Targett (foot). Callum Wilson should be fit after sitting out the last game with a tight hamstring.

Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron should both be available after suffering knocks against Bournemouth last week. Joe Willock will undergo a late fitness check although the manager has described his injury as ‘not serious”.


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