23 November 2007

Liverpool at Newcastle 11.24.07

7:45am, live in the US on Setanta

Last 4 head-to-head:
1-2 Newcastle (a) 02.10.07
2-0 Liverpool (h) 09.20.06
3-1 Liverpool (a) 03.19.06
2-0 Liverpool (h) 12.26.05

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Fulham (h); 8-0 Besiktas (h); 0-0 Blackburn (a)
Newcastle: 1-1 Sunderland (a); 1-4 Pompey (h); 1-2 Reading (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Torres 5; Gerrard, Voronin 3; Alonso, Kuyt 2; Babel, Benayoun, Sissoko 1
Newcastle: Martins 4; N’Zogbia, Viduka 3; Milner, Owen 2; Butt, Cacapa, Emre 1

Referee: Alan Wiley

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Gerrard Sissoko Mascherano Kewell
Crouch Torres

Now then, back to the real football. And of course, it’s an early kick-off away from Anfield following an international break.

On the injury front, Torres should return, and after last Saturday’s performance, should go straight into the starting line-up. It’s still too soon for Alonso or Benayoun, and it will come down to a late fitness check for Agger. I’ll be surprised if he starts, despite the fact that his pace would be useful against the likes of Obafemi Martins.

I have to believe, but maybe it’s just hope, that Crouch will lead the line along with Torres. He’s played well of late, and was probably the only player who could leave with his head held high after England’s performance on Wednesday.

Similarly, I truly hope that Gerrard won’t suffer a let down following England’s failure to qualify for Euro 08. He worked so hard to get himself back into form following the extended toe injury, and he’s a confidence player. I have him on the right partly because of the injuries to Benayoun and Pennant, but partly because putting him on the right can be similar to putting him in a free role behind a lone striker. But with both Crouch and Torres starting, there’s no room for that.

I do believe that Sissoko and Mascherano will start as well. Masch played two qualifiers for Argentina in South America during the break, but without Alonso in addition to the other injuries, he’ll be needed. In addition, we haven’t seen Sissoko and Gerrard together in the center since the abysmal game against Marseille.

I went back and forth over whether I thought Babel or Kewell would start on the left, but since Harry only played one friendly, against Nigeria in London, and made it through the 90 minutes unscathed, I think he might be in for his first start in ages. Which would boost Liverpool – Kewell’s an excellent foil on the left if Stevie’s on the right, and if Geremi starts at right back, Harry has the pace and tricks to run circles around him.

Newcastle, as usual, has a lengthy injury list with Owen, Taylor, Faye, Carr, Cacapa, Babayaro, and Duff out, but with Barton and Emre in the center along with Martins and Milner in attack, there will be physicality (it is an Allardyce team) and the capacity to get something from nothing on the break. Liverpool’s backline will have to be wary of conceding goals like the two given up to Tottenham last month.

The best way to get past the idiocy I wrote about earlier is to win. I realize that G&H’s statement focused more on the Champions League, but the same goes here. There’s far less conflict, and the media’s far less apt to look for/make up problems when everything’s firing on all cylinders. Plus, if Benitez wasn’t already fired up, we know there’s little love lost between he and Allardyce.

St James’ Park is never the easiest place to play, and Liverpool was turned over there 1-2 last season, but it’s imperative Liverpool continue on unbeaten, especially with the game against Porto coming up on Wednesday.

Roll on.

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