This fixture has delivered some classics down the years and this weekend has some very interesting sub-plots. Newcastle need to get a result to enhance their survival chances, while their manager Rafael Benitez will be returning to the club where he won the Champions League in 2005. It’s expected that Benitez will get a good reception at Anfield, but there won’t be any sympathy shown to the situation he finds himself in at Newcastle and Liverpool will be keen to continue their momentum going into the Europa League semi-final. Liverpool have little to play for in the league and could rest key players ahead of next Thursday’s match against Villarreal.
Liverpool gave one of their best performances of the season to overcome their rivals Everton in the Merseyside derby. They managed to have 37 shots in the match, which is an incredible return and shows how they dominated the match. Liverpool have yet to lose a match in April, with their last defeat coming against Southampton at the end of last month. Jurgen Klopp is beginning to build a dangerous side and they will be challenging for the top four next season. This fixture isn’t important for the club, but Klopp will know the importance of this match for Newcastle and how Liverpool need to be as strong as possible.
Newcastle were dead and buried a few weeks ago, with the club languishing six points away from safety. However, a win and a draw over the last six days has seen them go within touching distance of Norwich, while their run in appears to be kinder than the other two clubs in the relegation fight. They likely need to win three of their last four matches, but if they play like they did against Manchester City in mid-week, they will have a chance. Benitez is beginning to make a noticeable difference and it will be interesting to see if he does choose to stay, even if the club are indeed relegated.
In the previous meeting this season, Newcastle took a crucial three points thanks to two goals from Gini Wijnaldum at St James’ Park. The Magpies have struggled on the road this season and will be hoping for a better result than last season, when they lost 2-0. Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen were on the scoresheet on that occasion.
Liverpool have only lost once in their last nine league matches as Jurgen Klopp begins to shape them into a side in his image.
Only Aston Villa have conceded more goals than Newcastle United this season and this is a huge reason for their league position.
Daniel Sturridge hasn’t been as important under Jurgen Klopp as he would have expected, with Divock Origi starting in big matches. However, I’d expect Sturridge to start this weekend, regardless of whether Origi is injured or not, and the Englishman is in great form. He has scored three in his last four matches and has been a constant threat throughout. The Newcastle back four is beginning to become a lot more organised under Benitez, but there is still frailties there and they can be exposed by a striker with the quality that Sturridge has. With the European Championships arriving quickly, there is plenty of competition for the striking berths, with Andy Carroll and Marcus Rashford making a late claim for selection. Many still see Sturridge as a key player for England, but he has been overtaken by Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane in recent months. There is no doubting his quality, but his injury problems remain a concern. It will be interesting to see if Klopp opts to include Sturridge in his long term plans for Liverpool. If he continues to score goals this season, it would be a huge call not to make him central for Liverpool’s future.
Cheick Tiote has had good and bad spells in his Newcastle career and has been linked with a move away on several occasions. He came close to going to China in January, but the fact he remained at St James Park could prove pivotal to their survival chances. The Ivorian was in great form against Manchester City and gave one of his best performances in a black and white shirt. It appears Rafa Benitez has managed to motivate the midfielder and when on form, Tiote is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. The days he is on form are few and far between, and that has been very frustrating for Newcastle supporters. He will be important this weekend as Liverpool will dominate the play and Tiote needs to be disciplined in front of the back four, preventing the Liverpool midfield from creating too many chances.
Divock Origi will miss out after being stretchered off against Everton. Christian Benteke and Jordan Henderson will also be missing, but could return before the end of the campaign. Emre Can, Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are all set to miss the rest of the campaign.
Fabricio Coloccini and Kevin Mbabu could return this weekend. Daryl Janmaat and Steven Taylor will miss out. Rob Elliot, Massadio Haidara and Tim Krul are not going to feature again this season.
Newcastle have been in terrible away from home this season and they have yet to show improved performances under Benitez. However, the squad should be on a high after two huge results at home and if they perform like they did against Manchester City, they have a chance of getting a result. Liverpool are probably going to make a lot of changes with an eye on the Europa League semi-final. It will be an interesting match, which is difficult to predict as it depends what Newcastle team shows up, but I think Liverpool will prevail in a narrow victory.
Liverpool 2-1 Newcastle United