Game week 7 of the Premier League sees Newcastle return back home to Tyneside to welcome Liverpool in a very different challenge to last weekend’s disappointing away result at Brighton.
A humbling result at the Amex on Sunday has brought Rafael Benitez’s men back down to Earth after an impressive run of 3 league wins in a row. No Premier League side has ever been relegated after winning 3 of the opening 5 league games, which is a reassuring fact. However, the weekend’s poor performance will remind the Toon that they will find points hard to come by against any team in the division if concentration and focus levels aren’t at Benitez’s desired standard.
What to expect…
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side represent a close-to-completed work in progress. Klopp’s teams always possess an entertaining attacking gift. This campaign his side is bolstered by the £36.9m summer signing of Mohamed Salah from AS Roma. The Egyptian has provided an immediate impact, leading The Red’s scoring charts with four league goals and one assist.
Salah is but one component of a potent Liverpool attack. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho are all available for selection giving Klopp a welcomed tactical headache. Mane returns after a three match ban. Coutinho has been embedded back into the team after his Barcelona summer shenanigans. He’s rewarded his selection with a goal and assist, looking as sharp as ever.
The Merseyside team have scored the joint 3rd highest total of goals so far, 12. Considering Klopp’s team selection away at Spartak Moscow where Salah, Firmino, Coutinho and Mane all started, there’s sure to be more goals.
Defending is a different matter. Liverpool’s defence has been the subject of much conversation and abuse over the last year. Klopp wasn’t able to bring in summer transfer target Virgil Van-Dijk from Southampton or an alternative. That left the Red’s evidently short at the back, particularly at Centre Half.
Despite the free scoring nature of the side, Liverpool have conceded 11 goals so far, the joint 3rd most in the division. Most notably, Klopp’s men look susceptible to set pieces, an area Newcastle have excelled in under Benitez’s guidance.
In the 16/17 Premier League season Liverpool conceded 12 goals from set pieces representing 29% of all goals forfeited. Similarly, The Red’s conceded those 12 goals from 110 efforts following set pieces; conceding from 11% of all shots suffered which was 5th worst last year.
Rafa will be sure to emphasise the need to focus on corners and free kicks as a consequence of the success his side has had in those areas. Newcastle scored the most set piece goals last year in the Championship with 24, and have two this season.
Head to head…
This match-up has been an evenly fought contest over the last few years. The previous 9 meetings between the sides have produced 3 Newcastle wins, 3 Liverpool wins and 3 draws.
The last encounter ended 2-2 at Anfield but Toon ran out 2-0 victors at St James’ Park in the reverse fixture.
The prior two fixtures at St James’ saw Newcastle triumph (2-0, 1-0) and the Magpies have taken 10 points from the last five home meetings. These are statistics that Benitez will be mindful of and one that the Newcastle faithful should respond to.