8:30am ET, live in the US on Fox Soccer Plus
FYI: I'm away all weekend, posting from the road thanks to the magic of the internet, so there will be no review for Sunday's match. Here's hoping history doesn't repeat itself, as the last match I didn't watch live was last season's wonderful contest against Northampton.
Last four head-to-head:
3-1 Liverpool (h) 12.30.11
3-0 Liverpool (h) 05.01.11
1-3 Newcastle (a) 12.11.10
3-0 Liverpool (h) 05.03.09
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Wigan (h); 2-3 QPR (a); 2-1 Stoke (h)
Newcastle: 3-1 West Brom (a); 1-0 Norwich (h); 1-2 Arsenal (a)
Liverpool: Suarez 7; Bellamy 6; Gerrard 5; Carroll 3; Adam, Kuyt, Maxi, Skrtel 2; Coates, Henderson, Johnson 1
Newcastle: Ba 16; Cisse 5; Ben Arfa, Best 4; Sh Ameobi, Cabaye, Jonas, R Taylor 2; Gosling, Guthrie, Obertan 1
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Skrtel Coates Enrique
Kuyt Gerrard Spearing Downing
So, everyone's feeling optimistic? Liverpool are on quite the run. At least this week the match is against a side higher in the table, although away from Anfield. That usually bodes better than the alternative.
Adam's absence has now been confirmed, at least for the near future, while Agger, Bellamy, Johnson, and Kelly remain either doubtful or absent. I suspect Kelly is closest to fitness, while I – like everyone else – truly hope Coates replaces Carragher, even though this is an away match and even if Liverpool have to use Flanagan at right-back.
With Suarez suspended for the reverse fixture, Liverpool played 4-2-3-1, with Bellamy and Downing on the flanks, Henderson behind Carroll, and Adam and Spearing holding midfield. Of course, Liverpool won by replacing Adam with Gerrard, shifting to a more-orthodox 4-3-3. That win wasn't because of any change in tactics or formation, though. Liverpool won because Gerrard, once again, almost single-handedly dragged Liverpool to the win.
Carroll underwhelmed when facing his club last time – and it's hard to say whether that was due to all-too-often general malaise or not being "up for" facing his boyhood club – but Coloccini's absence should help his cause immensely. Once again, I've become a broken record, but Carroll, Suarez, and Gerrard seemingly have to start together considering Liverpool's results with all three in the line-up. And Suarez seemingly can't start as a lone striker/out-and-out #9 again. Liverpool simply don't have the players to provide him enough support.
I suspect Henderson will be taken out of the firing line after being hooked at half-time in the last match, which most likely means Downing and Kuyt will start on the flanks, whether on each's stronger side or as inverted wingers. They switched often in the loss against Wigan a week ago. Or, less likely, Maxi might make another appearance, but I suspect his spot on the bench has been stolen by Raheem Sterling for the majority of the final eight games. Who assuredly won't start.
Newcastle are deservedly a spot ahead of Liverpool in the table, eight points in front thanks to the Reds' most-recent massive disappointments. Unlike Liverpool, Newcastle have taken advantage of playing sides they're supposed to beat, with victories over Norwich and West Brom following a four-match winless streak.
Newcastle are also currently rivaling Liverpool in injury troubles as well. Center-back and captain Coloccini will be the most-missed, out for the next few weeks with a hamstring tear, which means Williamson and Perch will be the Geordies' defensive pairing. Steven Taylor, Best, Marveaux, Lovenkrands, and Sammy Ameobi are also out, while Cisse, Tiote, and Ryan Taylor are questionable, although I suspect all three will be available, especially Cisse and Tiote if at all possible.
Despite trailing off recently, without a goal since February 5, Ba has still scored the same amount as Liverpool's top three strikers – Suarez, Bellamy, and Carroll – combined. January signing Papiss Demba Cisse has picked up the slack, with three goals in the last two matches. At home, Pardew will most likely start with Ba and Cisse up top – as long as Cisse's available, obviously – with Cabaye and Tiote (or Guthrie) in midfield; two from Jonas, Obertan, and Ben Arfa on the flanks; and Simpson and Santon (or Ryan Taylor) at full-back.
All too often, Liverpool have made fools of fans' hopes and aspirations, at least in the league, and themselves. Which makes it fitting that Sunday's match takes place on April Fools' Day.