The absence of Owen, Taylor and Faye may worry some fans but looking at the league table, recent form of both Newcastle and Liverpool, it’s not inconceivable that Newcastle beat Liverpool.
Let’s compare the two sides.
Newcastle have had problems in defense (what’s new?) and these problems are now exacerbated by the injury to Taylor. The last home game was an embarrassment, with Pompey overwhelming the Geordies 4-1 in a game where little went right for Newcastle. The two away games either side of the Pompey game were nothing to write home about either, Newcastle losing to Reading and drawing (after being second-best) to Sunderland.
Form-wise, Newcastle have dipped. However, consider that Newcastle have historically been able to raise their game when it comes to facing the big sides (last season’s games against Chelsea and Manchester United come to mind) and you would expect at least a draw from Newcastle at this stage of the season. Add to this the fact that in Martins they have a player capable of turning a game on its head and in N’Zogbia they have the creative talent to win games, and if Liverpool were not in top form they could be in a spot of serious bother.
Newcastle trail Liverpool by 6 points, a nothing difference if you consider how Newcastle have vastly under-performed in their last two away games.
And what of Liverpool’s form? An away win against Everton apart, Liverpool have made a habit of drawing games (beating Fulham 2-0 at home is routine, nothing extraordinary). They made a meal of their away game against Blackburn, and now they’ll have, on its day, an equally difficult opponent to deal with.
The big thing counting against Liverpool is captain Steven Gerrard’s form. He’s been little more than useless for England recently, and while people may argue that it’s the fixture glut taking it’s toll on the scouser it’s also a point to note that Gerrard’s form, like Liverpool, has slumped. They’re also missing Pennant, Benayoun and Alonso, which will sap Liverpool’s already limited creative talents.
I don’t expect Liverpool or Newcastle to keep a clean sheet on the weekend. With goals definitely in the offing, it’s a question of who can score more. Gerry quotes the odds at 17/10 for a Liverpool win but I’m plumping for a draw at least, possibly a Newcastle win.
1) Newcastle v Liverpool – who will win and why?
2) Expected Newcastle starting lineup?
I’ll set up a match discussion post tomorrow so we can chat during the game – for now, let us know your thoughts on the two questions above.