Premier League | St James' Park | Sat 1 Nov | 12:45pm
Problems everywhere. Except in Newcastle where things are looking up.
- Man City 0-2 Newcastle (LC)
- Spurs 1-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Leicester (Prem)
- Swansea 2-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- Stoke 1-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Liverpool 2-1 Swansea (LC)
- Liverpool 0-0 Hull (Prem)
- Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid (CL)
- QPR 2-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 2-1 WBA (Prem)
Football on Tyneside is like London buses – Newcastle waited two months for a Premier League win, then two came along at once.
The same is also true of Liverpool at the moment: who seemingly spend hours reaching their ultimate destination, only to repeatedly break down through an interminable journey in the company of other sweat-drenched folk short on patience. Then score twice in the dying embers of games to save face.
Despite the crisis-laden start to the season, there are green-shooted signs of growth at Alan Pardew’s Newcastle.
The ill feeling away from the pitch won’t go anytime soon, but Pardew deserves credit for rescuing the Magpies' faltering display last weekend against Spurs at half-time and backing up that display with Wednesday’s League Cup victory at holders Manchester City.
Sammy Ameobi and Remy Cabella’s introductions sparked a much improved performance, the former scoring after seven seconds from Jack Colback’s cute ball inside Eric Dier and the latter setting up Ayoze Perez’s headed winner from a fine cross.
Cabella, in particular, has inspired himself out of the early season slump that had consigned him to the bench.
“Doing weights is a must, lower and upper body in order to resist challenges,” he told L’Equipe this week.
“The idea is to stay upright and fall as little as possible. Even after 45 minutes I’m dead on the field! I’ve been surprised by the rhythm and intensity of matches.”
A supremely gifted wide attacker, the Frenchman must now maintain that form going into Saturday lunchtime’s game, especially as the Magpies could again be without Papiss Cisse’s presence up front.
The Senegalese may not be the naturally most adept footballer, but his physical attributes give Newcastle an added dimension that Perez, despite his goal, cannot. That said, the young Spaniard’s header served notice of a player who has the talent to succeed, if afforded space to exploit.
Liverpool’s midweek win in the League Cup only papers over the cracks. For spells, they still look a potentially excellent team capable of competing towards the league’s summit, but the 90-minute assault of pressing and relentless attacking of 2013/14 is still to reveal itself this term.
Mario Balotelli’s goal should give the Italian maverick confidence to end his Premier League drought but the pressure is now on to arrest the decline, otherwise another season’s Champions League football is unlikely. It’s in midfield where Brendan Rodgers must find the balance that works best.
Captain Steven Gerrard must play as the team’s most experienced player, but neither Lucas, Emre Can nor Joe Allen have provided a compelling case to partner him and Jordan Henderson in the engine room.
The formation changes every game, which last season wasn’t a problem in a confident team, but this season smacks of a side still finding its feet.
One wonders whether Newcastle remain favourites because of the off-field situation at St James’ Park, but this should be a goal-heavy, but close, encounter. The last goalless draw came in February 1974.
Davide Santon and Siem de Jong remain long-term absentees for Newcastle, with Cisse’s knee injury also likely to rule the Senegalese out. Expect Ameobi and Cabella to start after their impressive recent form.
Daniel Sturridge, Mahmadou Sakho and Jon Flanagan are no closer to returns for Liverpool. Coutinho should start as the No.10 after a bright display against Swansea in midweek.
Key battle: Daryl Janmaat vs Adam Lallana
Faultless in the tackle against Spurs, the Dutch full-back has been quietly impressive for the Magpies since his summer arrival from Feyenoord. Though on the tall side for a right-back, the 25-year-old is a fine technician and can get forward to great effect, as shown by his goal against Crystal Palace in late August.
Largely playing off the left since joining Liverpool from Southampton, Lallana may well have his work cut out to get the better of Janmaat. With Alberto Moreno better going forward than backwards at left-back, the Reds’ left could be where the St James’ Park battle is won and lost.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L’pool 2-1 N’castle (PL, May 14)
- N’castle 2-2 L’pool (PL, Oct 13)
- N’castle 0-6 L’pool (PL, Apr 13)
- L’pool 1-1 N’castle (PL, Nov 12)
- N’castle 2-0 L’pool (PL, Apr 12)
Love him or hate him, Pardew is the sort of coach whose sides frequently produce good runs of form, a purple patch in which Newcastle currently find themselves. Though the feeling persists that they play better away from home, if they begin well – fresh from a Pards team talk – confidence can flow through a team that needs to feel on top to perform at its best. Put simply, Rodgers needs wins. Convincing wins, not late scrambles against QPR or drab 0-0 home draws against Hull. Otherwise, the vultures may start circling.
Facts and figures
- Newcastle have had 5 players sent off in their last 4 Premier League games against Liverpool.
- Liverpool have scored more goals against Newcastle in the Premier League (84) than against anyone else.
- Cisse has scored a goal every 61 minutes so far this season; the best record in the Premier League of all players to have scored more than once.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Goals, but difficult to pick a winner. 1-1.
Back 1-1 at 6/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication