The early Saturday match will be Liverpool hosting Newcastle United. A few weeks ago, it looked like a match that would have huge ramifications at both ends of the table, but the recent form of the visitors has moved them eight points clear of the bottom three. For the home side, they need a victory to keep them in contention for the top four. It will be interesting to see if there are any fan protests before the match, following the emergence and demise of the European Super League. Despite the Reds pulling out, there remains a lot of anger within the fan base and this will be their first opportunity to display that on an Anfield matchday.
This weekend provides an opportunity for Liverpool to move into the top four places before two of their rivals meet at the London stadium. Given Newcastle’s poor position in the league table, it is a game that the Reds simply must win. Their recent form has been good, as they have taken a possible ten points from the last 12 available. Despite sitting in 7th position, there will be confidence within the fanbase that they can go on to claim a Champions League place.
Newcastle looked to be heading for a third relegation under Mike Ashley following their convincing defeat to Brighton before the international break. It looked to be the right time to make a managerial change, but ignoring the logical decision looks to have paid off for the hierarchy. Since Brighton, they have changed to a 3-5-2 formation and taken seven points from 9 available. The returns of Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson has improved their fortunes in attack. They likely need another 3-5 points to confirm their survival, but they can approach this weekend with freedom and that makes them a dangerous side to come up against.
Liverpool have now dropped 13 points from leading positions. This is more than the two previous seasons combined.
Newcastle United have taken more than half of their Premier League points this season from Everton, Burnley and West Ham United (18).
After being left out of the starting eleven against Leeds United, it is expected that Mohamed Salah comes back into the team this weekend. Aside from the team aim of finishing in the top four, Salah will have one eye on finishing as the league’s top goal-scorer and he is certainly in the running. He currently has 19 goals and is set to reach the 20-mark for the third time in four Premier League seasons. Harry Kane is currently in the lead for the golden boot with 21, which means that the Egyptian is within striking distance. That will certainly be on his mind and as Tottenham don’t play this weekend, there is an opportunity for him to close the gap. Newcastle may have been successful since changing to 3-5-2, but they have been vulnerable at the back, especially in wide areas. It should be a match-up that suits Salah, as there will be a chance to get into goal-scoring positions behind the wing-backs.
The Frenchman causes carnage in every match he plays, even if his end product can be inconsistent. Liverpool have struggled most against direct players willing to run at their inexperienced back-line. Trent Alexander-Arnold has come under scrutiny for his defensive vulnerability and he is likely to targeted by the exciting Saint-Maximin. He has played a match-winning role in the last two matches, despite a recent return from injury. This will be an opportunity to show his quality against the current Premier League champions and that should motivate the Frenchman. His returns of three goals and four assists looks modest, but when looked at based on minutes played, he comes out very well. Saint-Maximin averages a goal involvement every 154 minutes. Last weekend, he may not have scored or assisted, but he was key to the first goal, as it was his strike that caused the own goal. Liverpool need to watch him closely this weekend, as he can cause damage.
Jordan Henderson will still be missing until the beginning of May. Nat Phillips and Curtis Jones are both doubts for this weekend. Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk remain on the long term injury list.
Allan Saint-Maximin was withdrawn early last weekend, but he is expected to be okay. Jamaal Lascelles, Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schar are all unavailable until May, while Isaac Hayden will miss the rest of the season. Joe Willock and Callum Wilson are both pushing for recalls to the starting eleven.
This is going to be a more difficult match than it would have been a few weeks ago. Newcastle play a counter attacking style that can target Liverpool’s weakness at the back, as Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron are both quick and direct. That said, the home side have slowly been getting back to their best and they will realise that this weekend is a great opportunity to strengthen their league position. Both teams should find the back of the net, but the current champions will have the quality to get the three points.
Liverpool 2-1 Newcastle United