31 October 2014

Liverpool at Newcastle 11.01.14

8:45am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (h) 05.11.14
2-2 (a) 10.19.13
6-0 Liverpool (a) 04.27.13
1-1 (h) 11.04.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Swansea (h); 0-0 Hull (h); 0-3 Real Madrid (h)
Newcastle: 2-0 City (a); 2-1 Tottenham (a); 1-0 Leicester (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sterling 3; Gerrard 2; Coutinho, Henderson, Lallana, Moreno, Sturridge 1
Newcastle: Cisse 4; Aarons, Ameobi, Janmaat, Obertan, Perez, Williamson 1

Referee: Andre Marriner

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Henderson Allen
Borini Balotelli Sterling

Fabio Borini should and seemingly will start after his performance in the midweek league cup match. His mobility caused Swansea problems, and even though he ostensibly played on the right, his inclusion helped Balotelli, adding another forward who'll actually get into the box into the mix rather than another of Liverpool's diminutive attacking midfielders.

But I still don't know what formation Liverpool will use.

Borini's versatility, unlike Lambert or even Sturridge, means that it doesn't have to be a diamond or 4-2-2-2 to have two "strikers". Those are options, but – as against Swansea – Borini is capable of playing as a wide forward. It was 4-2-3-1 midweek, but I still believe Liverpool's midfield – especially when Gerrard starts – is more comfortable in a 4-1-2-3: Henderson and either Allen or Coutinho (or, possibly, Lallana, I guess) ahead of the captain. Which is what I've guessed above, but your guess is as good as mine.

Borini playing on the right would also allow Sterling to shift back to the left, where he's vastly more dangerous.

If it's a diamond, it'll probably be Sterling at the apex, and Henderson and Allen ahead of Gerrard. If it's 4-2-2-2, it'll be Henderson and Gerrard central, and Sterling and Coutinho or Lallana out wide. If it's 4-2-3-1, it'll be Henderson and Gerrard central, Sterling and Borini as the wide forwards, and Coutinho or Lallana as the #10. They're not ideal options, but Liverpool do have options, and no matter who starts, Liverpool will also have options off the bench.

The defense continues to write itself with Sakho and Flanagan injured, although it's worth noting that Glen Johnson looked much better when deployed at left back rather than right on Wednesday. But Moreno has still looked even better.

After going winless in its first seven league matches, Newcastle have somehow turned it around, beating Leicester and Tottenham in the league before the 2-0 league cup win at Manchester City last week. That mini-winning streak sees them now just four points behind Liverpool. Because of course Newcastle finds form just before a match against Liverpool.

Newcastle will be looking to end an auspicious streak tomorrow. They've had at least one player sent off in the last four matches against Liverpool, and two sent off in the last meeting. Five red cards in four matches. That's impressive, in an "you ate the whole wheel of cheese and pooped in the fridge?" type of way. And yet, Liverpool have only won two of those four matches, drawing the other two despite a man-advantage for a significant amount of time.

Pardew's side are still struggling with injuries: Tiote, de Jong, Santon, and Jonas are out, while both Cisse and Williamson will be subject to late fitness tests. If neither pass that test, the XI will most likely be Krul; Janmaat, Taylor, Coloccini, Dummett; Anita, Colback; Gouffran, Sissoko, Ameobi; Perez – pretty much the same XI which beat Tottenham last week. If he's fit, you suspect Cisse will go straight into the side, but I can't say the same about Williamson. Emmanuel Riviere is back from injury, and could also start up front. Cabella, benched during this winning streak, is an option on either flank, whether in place of Gouffran or Ameobi, or even Anita (who he replaced as a substitute against Spurs), playing as the #10, shifting Sissoko into a deeper position.

This fixture's always a strange one, whether it's those famous 4-3s nearly a decade ago, a 6-0 shellacking without Suarez at the end of 2012-13, or last season: two difficult matches, a draw and narrow win, despite Liverpool being much better than Newcastle going into either contest. Home or away doesn't seem to matter, form going into the match doesn't seem to matter.

Both sides are trying to steady themselves. Liverpool adjusting to life without Suarez and Sturridge, unbeaten since losing to Real but failing to impress in nearly every match, yet somehow only two points off the Champions League places, level with Arsenal and ahead of United, Everton and Tottenham. Newcastle starting to get its season on track and saving its manager's job.

Given past results, an emphatic Liverpool win, a disappointing draw, or narrow loss wouldn't surprise. Pretty much anything's possible. It goes without saying that any sort of win would suffice, and that any other result would be a fairly bad thing with Real Madrid and Chelsea to come over the next seven days.


Cooker said...

With Tiote injured, who takes the red card for Newcastle?

Anonymous said...

It feels very good to read your "guess at a line up" and still have so many quality options on the bench. Great problem to have.

Also, different note, but please tell me everything is going to be okay about the Gerrard might be leaving thing. That would be so awful and I'd lose a little faith in the sport if that happened.