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Liverpool: 3rd place; 50 points out of 26 games
Newcastle: 10th place; 33 points out of 26 games
Last 4 meetings:
2-0 Liverpool (h) 09.20.06
3-1 Liverpool (a) 03.19.06
2-0 Liverpool (h) 12.26.05
0-1 Newcastle (a) 03.05.05
Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 0-0 Everton (h); 2-1 West Ham (a); 2-0 Chelsea (h)
Newcastle: 1-2 Fulham (a); 3-1 Villa (h); 2-2 West Ham (h)
Goalscorers (league; more than one goal):
Liverpool: Kuyt 9; Bellamy, Crouch 6; Gerrard 4; Alonso, Garcia 3; Gonzalez 2
Newcastle: Martins 9; Dyer 4; Ameobi, Milner, Parker, Siberski 3
Referee: Mark Halsey
Guess at a squad:
Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio
Pennant, Gerrard, Sissoko, Riise
Alonso is ruled out due to his 5th yellow of the season, picked up against West Ham, while Sissoko should return from his long-term shoulder injury. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll start, as he hasn’t seen first-team action since Birmingham in the League Cup. I’m almost tempted to believe Zenden would get a look before Momo, because he’s been healthy for marginally longer, but I’d rather see Sissoko in the team, rusty or not.
The mid-week international games should also affect the line-up. Gerrard, despite a slight knock, only played 45 minutes for England, so he should be available, but with Crouch getting a full 90 minutes, I’d be surprised to see him start. In addition, Gonzalez was late returning from the Chilean side (I had thought he would refuse to turn out for the national team, but he has), which was in South America.
Liverpool played with three center backs at St. James’ Park last season to good effect, but I’d be surprised to see it here. Although, I did say that about the West Ham game as well. In certain games - and I believe this will be one of them - the natural width and attacking sensibilities of players like Pennant, Riise and Aurelio will help Liverpool spread the defensive and keep pressure on Newcastle.
Newcastle will probably hand a second start to American destroyer Oguchi Onyewu, who made his debut last time out against Fulham. He may not have a huge impact on this game, although he played well his first time out, but I felt the need to make a mention. Onyewu will be one of the cornerstones of the American national team for a long time to come, and is certainly one to watch for the rest of the league campaign. At the least, he will certainly bring steel to Newcastle’s permanently troubled backline. As has been the case all season, the Geordies are still struggling with injuries, with Given, Owen, Emre, Carr, Ameobi, N’Zogbia, and Ramage all ruled out.
With Arsenal home against Wigan, and Bolton (and to a lesser extent, Reading) still within range, it’s essential that Liverpool continue the play that’s seen them go top of the Premiership form table. Last week’s draw while both Chelsea and United won didn’t help matters, but second isn’t out of the question, although the title race is seemingly over (had it restarted?). The recent Newcastle fixtures have been good for Liverpool. Long may it continue.
Roll on Geordies.