LIVERPOOL V. NEWCASTLE
| Saturday, April 24th |
Premier League | Anfield
12:30PM BST/7:30AM EST
Though Newcastle has struggled at times this season, they come into this match unbeaten in three, winning their last two matches (against top-four hopefuls West Ham and Burnley) after managing a 2-2 draw with Tottenham.
Newcastle sit 15th in the Premier League table, eight points above the relegation zone — though in his pre-match press conference manager Steve Bruce stressed that their current points total (35) will not be enough to ensure safety. Their problems this season are on the both sides of the ball, as they create relatively few high-quality chances and have given up the sixth highest value of total chances in the league (per Understat, their xGA is 49.73).
They’ve scored 35 league goals this season (a rate of 1.09 goals per game), and per Understat, they sit 15th in xG (34.4). This is worrying for Bruce, though the return of Allan Saint-Maximin, who remains fit after suffering a knock last weekend, has helped their attack in recent weeks.
Saint-Maximin, who has only completed two full matches this season through COVID issues and injuries, has contributed to their current form, making Newcastle more of a danger in counter attacks and adding cohesiveness to their forward movement.
Callum Wilson, their leading goalscorer (10 goals, all comps), is available to face the Reds, and Mark Gillespie may be fit enough to return to the side. Fabian Shär is not yet fully fit, while Jamaal Lascelles, Ryan Fraser, and Karl Darlow remain out for Newcastle.
Though their attack is by no means the strongest in the league, Newcastle can find their way into dangerous areas, and 29 of their 35 goals this season have come from the central zone inside the opposition penalty box (including four penalties). They will pose a threat, and Liverpool’s continued problems at the center of defense will be something the Magpies will look to exploit.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Davies, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Milner, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Though Liverpool are once again hit at the center of defense as Nat Phillips remains sidelined, the return of Curtis Jones could inject more energy into the midfield. Diogo Jota is also fit to play this weekend, while Jordan Henderson’s return date remains uncertain.
The midfield will be a challenge for Jürgen Klopp, made all the more difficult with Phillips’ continued injury. While Fabinho could do another match at centerback, it’s possible Ben Davies might get his first appearance in a red shirt.
Thiago, who has seen his minuted limited in recent matches, put in 95 minutes against Leeds United, as did the much-worked Gini Wijnaldum. Both players could be rested should James Milner, who also put in 95 minutes against Leeds, be fit enough to go again.
Because of the over-extension of the midfield, Klopp might change formations to a 4-2-3-1, though he has generally avoided formation changes late on in seasons past. This might be a game to rest the likes of Andy Robertson, but yet more forced disruption at the center of defense might cause the manager to avoid further rotation at fullback.
In yet another match, Klopp will be balancing fitness concerns with the must-win nature of the match as the Reds push to achieve top four in the final run in.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “We only have important games left, massively important. We have actually six finals, if you want, and we have to win them all pretty much, and we better start tomorrow.”
Steve Bruce: “Let’s hope we can go and play and play well – we’re going to have to, because Liverpool are Liverpool. They’ve had a difficult season for their standards over the last couple, but certainly, what we’ve been watching over this last week anyway, there’ve been signs of Liverpool of old – they’ve played very well lately”
Referee: Andre Marriner. Assistants: Richard West, Derek Eaton. Fourth Official: Lee Mason. VAR: Andy Madley. Assistant VAR: Matthew Wilkes.
Kickoff is set for 12:30PM BST/7:30AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, 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 the action as it happens.