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Last four head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (h) 04.13.15
0-1 Newcastle (a) 11.01.14
2-1 Liverpool (h) 05.11.14
2-2 (a) 10.19.13
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 6-1 Southampton (a); 1-0 Swansea (h); 2-1 Bordeaux (h)
Newcastle: 1-5 Palace (a); 0-3 Leicester (h); 1-0 Bournemouth (a)
Liverpool: Coutinho 5; Benteke 4; Ings, Milner, Sturridge 2; Firmino, Skrtel 1
Newcastle: Wijnaldum 6; Ayoze 3; Cisse, Mitrovic 2; Janmaat 1
Referee: Andre Marriner
Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Milner Lucas Allen
The Liverpool lineup guessing game continues. Coutinho's still out. Can's suspended. Is Henderson ready to start? Is Sturridge ready to start again after an hour on Wednesday?
The win at Southampton threw another wrinkle into the debate. The first time Liverpool used a 4-Diamond-2 formation under Jürgen Klopp, and Liverpool go and win 6-1. That's now four or so starting formations in Klopp's 11 matches: 4-3-2-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, and if we're being truly pedantic, 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3-0 as well.
In theory, the a diamond midfield matches up against Newcastle's likely 4-4-2/4-2-3-1ish formation. Janmaat likes to get forward from right back, but Dummett doesn't from the left. Both Sissoko and Wijnaldum, the likely wide players, are midfielders who'd prefer to play centrally, who'll tuck in often. Liverpool would match up well in the middle, keep Newcastle under wraps, and have space to exploit in quick transitions through both the strikers and full-backs.
Liverpool could keep the same formation as on Wednesday, with Milner or Henderson replacing Can, Clyne replacing Randall, and Benteke or Firmino replacing Origi or Sturridge. Or Liverpool could revert to the above 4-3-3/4-3-2-1. Or Liverpool could play 4-2-3-1, a base of Henderson or Milner or Allen with Lucas; Lallana, Firmino, and Ibe behind Benteke, Sturridge, or Origi.
Liverpool, finally, have options. They're not all fully fit options. Some options (playing Sturridge, at least as long as he's fit) are clearly better options than others, but fitness is fitness is fitness. Liverpool are still missing its most creative attacker in Coutinho, as well the increasingly important Emre Can.
If I had to guess, I'd guess the above 4-3-3, assuming that both Sturridge and Henderson will be protected with the busy fixture list to come, but this is the long version of "I honestly don't know." We're still just 11 games into Klopp's tenure; with both key players returning but not fully fit, and with other key players absent through suspension and injury, this side remains experimental, remains a work in progress. Which is amazing when you consider what Liverpool's achieved in the last two months.
Newcastle, meanwhile, are in deep trouble. Deep. Trouble. They're 19th, above only Aston Villa in the table. They've lost their last two matches – against Leicester and at Palace – by a combined 1-8 margin. They've the joint-worst goals conceded total in the league: 30 in 14 games. They've won just two of 14 league matches, against Norwich and Bournemouth. They're missing eight or so players who likely feature if available: Krul, Williamson, Haidara, Steven Taylor, Tiote, Obertan, Aarons, and Riviere.
Newcastle have the potential to not be terrible, evidenced in a 6-2 win against Norwich and a 2-2 draw with Chelsea, but we haven't seen it anywhere near enough. Despite their failures in the last two matches, the XI seemingly has to look similar; Newcastle's injuries don't leave McClaren many options. Something like Elliot; Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Dummett; Sissoko, Anita, Colback, Wijnaldum; Ayoze, Mitrovic. Maybe de Jong comes into central midfield, maybe Thauvin or Gouffran comes in on the flanks, maybe Cisse starts up front instead of Mitrovic. But those all seem unlikely when we've seen what's come before.
Liverpool's matches against Chelsea, City, and Southampton are the template, while Newcastle's 1-6 and 1-5 losses to City and Palace respectively are the goal. In both cases, Newcastle scored first, scored early, like both Chelsea and Southampton did to Liverpool. And when City and Palace responded, Newcastle wholly crumbled. I'd prefer if Liverpool did the above without conceding first – something that's happened far too often under Klopp – but if Liverpool can get going quickly, taking the game to Newcastle through pressing and quick transitions and direct attacking, it could be a very good day for Liverpool and a very long one for Newcastle.
But despite Liverpool's away form, despite Newcastle's current form, you can't help but feel this is a trap game. It's a new era, but it's still Liverpool – those feelings aren't going away until Liverpool prove otherwise more often – and Liverpool haven't won at Newcastle in last two trips. There's the potential backlash from Newcastle's utter hammering a week ago. There's Liverpool's propensity for struggling after a midweek match, there's Liverpool's propensity for complacency and disappointment after a brilliant result.
As we've said throughout Klopp's tenure, Liverpool need to prove otherwise. Liverpool need to continue to prove that this is a different Liverpool.