8:30am, live in the US on Setanta
Last 4 head-to-head:
5-1 Liverpool (a) 12.28.08
3-0 Liverpool (h) 03.08.08
3-1 Liverpool (a) 11.24.07
1-2 Newcastle (a) 02.10.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Hull (a); 4-4 Arsenal (h); 4-4 Chelsea (a)
Newcastle: 0-0 Pompey (h); 0-1 Spurs (a); 1-1 Stoke (a)
Liverpool: Gerrard, Torres 13; Kuyt 10; Benayoun 6; Alonso 4; Riera 3; Aurelio, Babel, Ngog 2; Agger, Arbeloa, Carragher, Dossena, Hyypia 1
Newcastle: Owen 8; Martins 7; Amoebi 4; Carroll, Duff, Taylor 3; Guthrie, Lovenkrands 2; Barton, Edgar, Xisco 1
Referee: Phil Dowd
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Agger Aurelio
Kuyt Benayoun Riera
Newcastle may be frighteningly bad of late and perilously close to relegation, but this isn’t a game to be fucking about with the line-up or expecting an easy trot to three points.
With the news that Gerrard’s finally close to fitness, which probably means he’ll start on the bench, the only foreseeable changes are in defense. The official site’s reporting that Agger’s close to a new deal (thank you baby jesus), so I’m hopeful he’ll start on Sunday as a reward. But Hyypia should be fit as well, and he had a blinder (while scoring a goal) in the reverse fixture.
The other question is over the left back spot. While one goal, conceded because a player got lazy at 2-0 and didn’t cover, doesn’t diminish my belief in Insua, I think Benitez will have had words with the young Argentinean (Pepe sure did right after Geovanni’s goal), and I think we’ll see Aurelio back in the lineup. But believe me, I wouldn’t be upset to see Emmy.
With or without Gerrard, Kuyt and Benayoun have been Liverpool’s key players over the last few weeks. And I couldn’t be prouder. Benayoun’s become the tricky, game-winning player we’d hope would replace Garcia, while Kuyt’s in double-digits for goals in the league even though he’s mostly played on the right. The two of them have to – simply have to – keep this up for the next four games.
It’s ever so tempting to underestimate Newcastle. In 18th and looking closer and closer to the drop, they’re winless under Wor Alan. As usual, injury problems persist on Tyneside; at the least, Steven Taylor and Jose Enrique will miss out in defense, while Viduka and Martins are questionable having recently returned to injury. And for kicks, Shearer’s threatening to drop Owen (you have you watch the video). I am begging you, Alan, go on, drop the former Red. It’d be a masterstroke.
The 5-1 win at St. James’ Park, with players like Babel, Hyypia, Lucas, and Insua starting, cannot be treated as precedent. It was four months ago – now, Liverpool’s in a fight to finish the season strongly, while the Geordies can feel relegation breathing down their necks. I promise you, form will probably go out the window tomorrow.
But, pressure from the off and an early goal, will break their spirits. You can be sure of that. And that’s the way Liverpool’s tried to play of late. Keep it up.