30 September 2017

Liverpool at Newcastle 10.01.17

11:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-2 (h) 04.23.16
0-2 Newcastle (a) 12.06.15
2-0 Liverpool (h) 04.13.15
0-1 Newcastle (a) 11.01.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Spartak (a); 3-2 Leicester (a); 0-2 Leicester (a)
Newcastle: 0-1 Brighton (a); 2-1 Stoke (h); 1-0 Swansea (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Salah 4; Mané 3; Firmino 2; Coutinho, Henderson, Sturridge 1
Newcastle: Lascelles 2; Atsu, Clark, Joselu, Mitrovic 1

Referee: Craig Pawson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Matip Klavan Moreno
Wijnaldum Henderson Coutinho
Salah Firmino Mane

September's over. Finally. It's behind us. It's a new month. Let's see a different Liverpool.

As per usual, there will be a couple of changes, but since Liverpool's midweek match was five days ago rather than three or four, I suspect that there will be fewer than we've seen recently.

Mignolet will almost certainly come back into the side. Maybe Gomez will as well, as Klopp's been hesitant to play Alexander-Arnold in consecutive starts. Emre Can wasn't good midweek and we're seeing stories about how Lovren has had to take painkillers to play recently (not great, Bob!).

But I want to see that front three again. I want to see it supplied by Coutinho in midfield. I want to see the full-backs adding width and creativity; Alexander-Arnold, Moreno, Robertson, and Gomez are all capable of doing so, and have demonstrated it in this short season. I'd hope that playing against his former club will cancel out Wijnaldum's away game curse – he has scored at St James' Park in the Premier League, after all.

I want to see Liverpool convert the chances we know they're capable of creating, the chances we saw at Spartak Moscow on Tuesday; that attack has the potential to do all sorts of rude things to Newcastle's midfield and defense. If Firmino can drag not-the-fastest center-backs out of position, if Mané and Salah get behind Yedlin and Mbemba, if we get the forward movement from Coutinho and Wijnaldum/Can, if everyone or anyone can finish like we've seen Liverpool finish in the past. And I hope that the defense simply won't do anything dumb – the Liverpool Serenity Prayer.

Meanwhile, Newcastle are a Rafa Benitez side that's hamstrung by also still being Newcastle. They keep it simple, it starts from defense. A well-coached team, a solid base, a compact side, a 4-2-3-1 formation. Not many scored, but not many conceded either. A team and manager who will know how they want to frustrate an all-too-easily-frustrated-of-late Liverpool. But, unsurprisingly, Rafa spent the first month of the season complaining about the club's lack of summer transfer business. Because of course he did and of course Mike Ashley didn't.

Newcastle had won three in a row prior to a 0-1 loss at Brighton last weekend – beating West Ham, Swansea, and Stoke – and that trip to Brighton was a match they should have at least drawn if not for an inability to finish their many chances. Which may sound vaguely familiar.

Mitrovic is back from suspension, but I still expect we're seeing the same side as against Brighton. Elliot; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba; Hayden, Merino; Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Joselu. There's a couple of alternatives. Mitrovic. Dwight Gayle, who still gives me shudders from his time at Crystal Palace. Jesus Gamez at left-back as a more attacking option. And, possibly, Jonjo Shelvey; I guarantee he's been pleading with Benitez all week, relishing the chance to play against his former club, but he's been Bad Jonjo far more than Good Jonjo over the last few weeks.

This fixture's given Liverpool problems in recent seasons, under both Klopp and Rodgers, under Pardew, McClaren, and Benitez. Liverpool have failed to win in its last three trips to Newcastle, in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Newcastle are just one of three Premier League sides that Klopp's faced and yet to beat – along with Manchester United and Southampton – following a 2-2 draw at Anfield in April 2016, one of the too-many matches where Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead.

Past cannot be precedent. Not after the September we've seen. It's time for Liverpool to play like Liverpool – the Good Liverpool. The materials are often there, but haven't been put together: sometimes in attack, more often in defense, and every now and then, sadly, in either. The Good Liverpool has been something we haven't seen enough in recent weeks, and something we haven't seen enough against this opposition.

Be good, Liverpool.

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