10am EST, live in the US on Setanta
Last 4 head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (a) 11.24.07
2-1 Newcastle (a) 02.10.07
2-0 Liverpool (h) 09.20.06
3-1 Liverpool (a) 03.19.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 West Ham (h); 3-1 Bolton (a); 3-2 Boro (h)
Newcastle: 0-1 Blackburn (h); 1-5 United (h); 1-4 Villa (a)
Liverpool: Torres 18; Gerrard 9; Babel 4; Benayoun, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso, Crouch 2; Aurelio, Hyypia, Sissoko 1
Newcastle: Martins 6; Viduka 5; Owen 4; N’Zogbia 3; Butt, Milner 2; Barton, Beye, Cacapa, Emre, Feye, Taylor 1
Referee: Peter Walton
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Skrtel Hyypia Riise
Pennant Gerrard Babel
With Liverpool playing as well as they have, with 12 goals in the last 4 games, consistency is just as important as keeping players fit for the trip to Italy on Tuesday. There will definitely be changes, but I don’t expect many.
Knock on wood, but Liverpool can take off Torres and/or Gerrard after getting the goals. And if it’s still 0-0 into the second half, it’s that much more impetus. If there were any changes to the front six, I’d imagine it’d be Mascherano, and possibly Kuyt or Torres. Again, I’m afraid of jinxing it, but Newcastle’s defense has been abysmal at times, and Liverpool’s been scoring with this line-up.
With Mascherano suffering a dead leg late against West Ham, he’s the most likely to be rested. And he will be needed against Inter trying to hold a two-goal lead; you can’t overemphasize his importance in Tuesday’s match. And with Lucas getting sustained time in the first-team, Liverpool has a ready-made replacement.
It’s purely a hunch, but I’d like to see Pennant get a start in what's been Kuyt’s role. That Kuyt’s started every game since Sunderland is part of it, but this is as good a chance as any to see Pennant in this formation, and it’s even better it’s before the Inter match. Benayoun could play as well, and Pennant’s gotten far more time as a substitute lately, but the option should be explored.
Torres looked fatigued by the end of the last match, calmly celebrating his 3rd goal, but, as Benitez said, he’s been absolutely on fire lately. Out of context, this looks like a game where Crouch would start, but it seems impossible to leave Torres out with the scoring streak he’s on.
After getting 45 and 60 minutes for the reserves, I’m hoping Agger will be on the bench, but it’s surely too soon for a start. With Hyypia rested mid-week, he’ll probably come back into the side, with either Skrtel or Carragher making way. Skrtel’s adapted well, and Carragher’s started more games than any other player this season (and, like others, could probably do with the rest before Inter). But regardless of who plays, the defense will have to be wary of Michael Owen.
This will be Keegan’s return to Anfield, still winless in this stint at Newcastle. In addition, the terms of Barton’s bail prevent him from traveling to Merseyside, while Viduka, Emre, and Carr are injured. It’s been a season to forget for Newcastle, which is probably the only club that’s had a worse ride in the media than Liverpool this season.
They may have had an awful season so far, but how many times has Liverpool expected to win games and disappointed? No matter how poorly Newcastle’s been playing, if they see names like Gerrard and Torres left off the team sheet, they will be invigorated. It seems like every league game’s a cup final recently, and with Liverpool’s standing in the table, that’s how every game should be treated.