Liverpool enter a home clash against relegation-threatened Newcastle United in fine form. Anfield has been on a journey over rediscovery under Jürgen Klopp since he took over from Brendan Rodgers in October. The confidence is flowing, the goals are coming, and the fans are bouncing. Spring has cleaned up some of the dust and decay surrounding Anfield, which will not please visiting teams that have found it too easy to come away with points at one of Europe's most historic grounds.
Liverpool may have scored four goals in each of the last three home games against Stoke City, Borussia Dortmund, and Everton, but other results in the past two months have shown that Anfield is becoming a tough place to visit. The Reds picked Manchester City apart at the beginning of March before finding a way past our footballing kryptonite, otherwise known as Crystal Palace. Manchester United were vanquished at Anfield on a European night, high-flying and title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur dropped points on Merseyside, Borussia Dortmund found out why their legendary manager was attracted to the Liverpool job, and Roberto Martínez might not experience a brutally one-sided derby as he did on Wednesday night.
Newcastle need points in a bid to stay in the Premier League, and the Toon Army might have started to pick up momentum after securing four points from the last two games -- including a fine draw with Manchester City. Rafa Benítez returns to Liverpool once again, but hasn't been able to solve the problem of his side's wretched away form. Aston Villa have picked up just six points from 17 away games, while Newcastle have only managed to register one more than a side that's already relegated. Whatever plans and tactics Benítez has for Newcastle's trip to Anfield, Liverpool should have too much for a team with a draw and two away wins to show for travelling up and down the Premier League.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Randall / Lucas / Touré / Smith
Stewart / Allen
Ojo / Firmino / Ibe
Rest and rotation should return tomorrow, and there's no reason why Liverpool shouldn't go with the same line-up that should have won by three or four against AFC Bournemouth. It may have finished closer than Klopp would have liked, but Daniel Sturridge could have scored a hattrick. After a disgraceful tackle forced Divock Origi to join Jordan Henderson and Emre Can on the late season injury list -- a dangerous time for any player looking to feature at the Euros this summer -- Sturridge is back as the undisputed first-choice striker. He still needs games, as does Roberto Firmino, so an hour to 70 minutes for each might be in order.
Andros Townsend could be dangerous along with the seemingly revitalised Moussa Sissoko, a player who has responded excellently to being given the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Fabricio Coloccini and out-of-favour Jonjo Shelvey. The former Liverpool midfielder was expected to be a key player for Benítez, but the return of Cheick Tioté from injury has pushed Shelvey further out of the first-team picture. Jamaal Lascelles may only be 22 and inexperienced in top flight action but has been a talismanic figure in recent matches, outspoken too.
A decision will have to be made concerning who will start up front: Papiss Cissé or the improving Aleksandar Mitrović? Shelvey and Mitrović might provide Liverpool with more problems defensively, but as anyone familiar with Rafa knows, it's all about balance. The interesting aspect of away games for Newcastle is that Rafa cannot bank on staying up by virtue of solely picking up points at home. Sit too deep and invite pressure. Push forward too much and open up space for pace, especially if Sheyi Ojo and Jordon Ibe are in the side.
The last away game against Southampton was a horrible game for Newcastle fans to watch with the basic tenets of defending and any token efforts at organisation completely absent at St Mary's. Liverpool may play a weakened side, but if Firmino and Sturridge are sharp, they should punish an away side on the counter. An early goal for Liverpool would easily facilitate this tactical advantage for Klopp and his players.
West Ham United aren't playing this weekend, which means Liverpool can jump into fifth spot with a win tomorrow. Europa League glory is the priority, but winning a game in hand to leave England's most successful side in a more respectable league position isn't something to take lightly. This isn't about Rafa versus Klopp. Newcastle need points to stay up, while Liverpool just need to keep moving. Plus, Liverpool owe Newcastle a defeat for December's reversal at St James' Park.
Kickoff is set for 3PM BST/10AM EST tomorrow, with no television coverage in the UK. It is what it is, UK fans. NBC Sports Live Extra will have a stream of the game in the US. Elsewhere, Fox Sports 5 Australia and Foxtel Play in Australia, TSN4, TSN1, and TSN 2 in Canada, Star Sports 1 Asia and Star Sports HD 1 in India, SuperSport Select 2 and SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya, Fox Sports Malaysia in Malaysia, and 102 (HD) mio Stadium in Singapore are carrying the match. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV. For online radio, fans worldwide can check out LFCTV GO.
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.