We'll be getting used to seeing plenty of Liverpool during the next few weeks, even if the League Cup is no longer on the agenda. Newcastle tomorrow, Anzhi on Thursday in Russia, and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next Sunday makes for a challenging and crowded week, and one that'll reveal quite a bit about where Liverpool stand in the two competitions in which they're currently taking part. The FA Cup's still to be added to the mix, but for now there's more than enough to keep our blood pressure elevated.
After the performance on Wednesday it's nice to have Liverpool playing again, even with the constant questions about how fit and rested the squad will be. Those questions will linger until January, when we'll have a whole other set of reasons for anxiety, but with the fringe and younger players looking less convincing than we'd hoped midweek, the squad we'll see tomorrow will be the one tasked with continuing to turn Liverpool's start to the season in a more positive direction throughout the next few weeks and months.
It hasn't quite been the start to the season Newcastle would have hoped for either, particularly in comparison to last year. Twenty-two points from their first ten this season would see them just a shade off Manchester United in first, and last year it had them alone in third and just a point off United. This season they've been more up and down, sprinkling two losses and four draws among wins against Spurs in the opener and Norwich and West Brom in September and October respectively, three points ahead of Liverpool in tenth.
Pardew might be able to call on Demba Ba tomorrow, who'd been a doubt because of a calf injury, but he'll be missing Cheick Tiote, who received a three-match ban after his red card against Sunderland. Otherwise Newcastle should be at full strength; against West Brom they went with Tim Krul in goal, Davide Santon, Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini, and Michael Williamson in defense, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, James Perch, and Jonas Guitierrez in the midfield, and Ba and Shola Ameobi in attack. Papiss Cisse came on in the second half to score the winner and could start tomorrow if Ba's unavailable.
Wisdom Skrtel Agger Johnson
Suso Suarez Sterling
Both Pepe Reina and Glen Johnson will be late decisions, with only Martin Kelly, Lucas, and Fabio Borini confirmed as absences. Joe Allen played a full 90 against Swansea in the League Cup and could likely use a rest, but there's no reason to think that he'd be excluded from the squad.
The questions about Reina and Johnson will be answered internally at some point today, and if neither of them are available then the natural inclusions are Brad Jones and Jose Enrique. Jones has dropped off a bit since the Reading win and Enrique showed clear rust in the derby, but there's not any other names capable of filling in right now. The other three are straightforward enough--Andre Wisdom at right back, with Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger in central defense.
Lucas' return can't come soon enough for Liverpool's midfield, who now have to rely on Joe Allen for every match they're going to take seriously. He'll play tomorrow, likely with Steven Gerrard and Nuri Sahin; the Turkish international was left out completely midweek despite playing only 45 minutes in the Merseyside derby, and the captain is in line for his 600th appearance for the club and looked lively in the second half against Swansea. Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson will probably be on the bench, with both featuring for the full ninety in the loss on Wednesday and the latter playing out of position as the only available option at right back.
There's similarly few options in attack, with Suso, Luis Suarez, and Raheem Sterling seemingly the only choices available. Joe Cole's been banished to Russia, Stewart Downing is serving as his butler, and after playing nearly 70 minutes against Swansea, there's no reason to think Oussama Assaidi will make his first Premier League start.
It doesn't seem like there's really a break in Liverpool schedule this fall, and that's either a testament to the quality of the Premier League or where Brendan Rodgers' squad is at. It's probably a decent mix of both, with the fear that the latter carries a bit more weight at this point. Newcastle aren't in the type of form they were to start last season, but they'll pose a significant threat to a Liverpool squad that's lacking in depth and still finding its footing in nearly every facet of the game.
After so much difficulty finding a way to watch midweek, this one will be miles easier--kickoff's set for 4:00PM GMT/11:00AM EST (DAYLIGHT SAVINGS FOR PEOPLE STATESIDE), and there'll be coverage on Sky Sports 1 in the UK and Fox Soccer Channel in the US. We'll have the open thread for pre-match discussion tonight the matchday thread to follow a few hours ahead of the start time, with team sheets set for an hour or so before the match.
See you all around tomorrow for what'll hopefully be a nice way to wrap up the weekend.