The feeling took some time to really sink into the jaded hearts of Liverpool fans who have been battered by years of disappointment, but after the last two weeks, it's hard to deny it anymore: Liverpool are fun again. They've won four games in a row in three different competitions. Since the November international break ended, Jurgen Klopp's Reds have trounced the league leaders, won two Premier League games in a row, qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League, and booked a place in the semi-finals of the league cup. They've also scored thirteen goals and conceded just three in four games, and then capped it off by welcoming back their captain and star striker onto the pitch after lengthy injury spells out.
Things are going well, is what I'm saying.
Not perfect, of course, and the biggest problems are injury-related. And defense related. Kolo Toure is out for this match, thanks to a knock received in training, which means that Liverpool have exactly four senior defenders to play on Sunday, and they'll all be on the pitch. And while Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge have been reintroduced into the squad, Liverpool will be without the suspended Emre Can and injured Philippe Coutinho.
Still, considering Liverpool's away form and Newcastle's dreadful season thus far, Liverpool will be the heavy favorites going into the match on Sunday. The Magpies have only managed two victories in all fourteen league games this season, and currently sit nineteenth in the table. Steve McClaren's job is hanging by a thread, and the team are a strong early contender for relegation.
If Liverpool fans have learned anything over the past few seasons, though, it's that the hardest games to win always seem to be the ones that they're expected to win. Liverpool are six points off the top spot, while Newcastle need to gain two points on their rivals to get out of the relegation zone. Both teams would greatly benefit from the three points on Sunday.
Newcastle have been plagued by injuries all season, which has contributed to their abysmal form. For this game, they'll be without Tim Krul, Cheick Tioté, Rolando Aarons, Steven Taylor, Massadio Haïdara, Gabriel Obertan, Jamaal Lascelles, Emmanuel Rivière, and finally, Mike Williamson, who had just been recalled from his loan with Wolverhampton Wanderers because of Newcastle's thin squad. Yikes. Their biggest goalscoring threat is Georginio Wijnaldum, the 25-year-old attacking midfielder who has six goals to his name, though four of them were scored in the same match against Norwich.
Clyne/ Škrtel/ Lovren/ Moreno
Milner/ Lallana/ Firmino
Klopp has options in every area but the battered defense. There's an outside chance that either of Connor Randall or Brad Smith may make an appearance in the starting line up, if Klopp believes they're capable of handling the Newcastle threat. A more realistic expectation would be to see them relieve the fullbacks in the second half to finish off the game, in the event that Liverpool pull out of reach. It's worth noting that Jose Enrique, after being recalled into first team training, is once again available for selection. He played in the Under-21s loss to Manchester United on Monday - in the unfamiliar role of center back. Could we be seeing him on the bench as the nuclear option?
With Emre Can unavailable, Klopp may opt for Joe Allen in his place, particularly after the Welshman performed so well on Wednesday. It seems risky to start Daniel Sturridge for a second game in four days, so he'll likely begin on the bench, with Christian Benteke reclaiming his position leading the line. Jordan Henderson, having only come on in the last few minutes of Liverpool's previous two games, is probably not ready to start just yet either. Wednesday's hat trick hero, Divock Origi, might have earned himself a place in the starting line up, along with the impressive Jordon Ibe. It's refreshing to see so many strong players at the manager's disposal.
In addition to the previously mentioned absences of Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool will also be without Danny Ings and Joe Gomez, who are both done for the season. Mamadou Sakho has about 3-4 weeks until he's back in contention, and Jon Flanagan's estimated return date remains 19 December -- which means we may get to see the Scouse Cafu in action before year's end.
Kickoff is set for 4:00PM GMT/11:00AM EST Sunday. Television coverage will be on Sky Sports 1/HD in the UK and NBC Sports Network and Telemundo (en espanol) for the US. Elsewhere, Fox Sports 4 Australia in Australia, TSN5, TSN4 & RDS2 in Canada, Star Sports 2 Asia in India, SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya, Astro SuperSport in Malaysia, and 102 (hd) mio Stadium in Singapore are carrying the match. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV. Online streaming is also available with NBC Sports Extra in the US and Sky GO Extra in the UK. For Online radio, fans worldwide can check out LFCTV GO and TalkSport Radio World.
We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.