Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 8/15
Liverpool are set to welcome Newcastle United to Anfield on Saturday in the 33rd round of the 2020-21 Premier League roller coaster. The importance of this clash is rather big for both teams.
There has been plenty of talk about the downfallen project called the ‘European Super League’, with Liverpool among the ‘dirty dozen’, the 12 clubs which were supposed to be the ‘founders’ of the competition, and one of those who cancelled their involvement as its demise became imminent. Despite the withdrawal and the apology the FSG principal owner John W Henry sent to the players, staff and supporters of the club, taking the full responsibility onto himself, the trust between the supporters and the owners has been severely shaken. It remains to be seen whether there will be any punishment for the clubs involved, but for the moment, it’s business as usual.
For Liverpool, that means the race for top four in the Premier League is back on, after the uncertainty of its importance shrouding their match against Leeds United on Monday evening. At the moment, the Merseysiders are in seventh place with 53 points, the same as Tottenham Hotspur in sixth though Spurs have already played their match of this round. Chelsea and West Ham are both on 55, sitting fourth and fifth respectively, and it seems these four clubs will be battling for the final Champions League spot. Leicester City are a bit more comfortable in third, with 59 points to their name, though far from anything guaranteed.
Liverpool’s last-six match run in the league consists of three wins, two defeats and one draw, including consecutive home defats (to Chelsea and Fulham) and an away win (against Wolves) by the same scoreline, 0-1, a 0-3 win away to Arsenal, a 2-1 home win over Aston Villa, and the 1-1 draw at Elland Road on Monday.
Jurgen Klopp’s team should now be able to focus solely on the remaining league games, having been knocked out of the Champions League in the quarterfinal by Real Madrid.
Klopp is still without the services of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip in the heart of defence. Nathaniel Phillips misses out as well having been left out against Leeds with a hamstring problem, which means Fabinho will likely step into the back line alongside Ozan Kabak again. Striker Divock Origi is out as well. The rest of the squad is at the manager’s disposal, including midfielder Curtis Jones who is back after a minor muscle issue.
The Magpies are obviously in a battle of their own, sitting 15th in the Premier League table with 35 points, just eight more than Fulham who top the relegation zone. Brighton and Hove Albion (16th, 34 points) and Burnley (17th, 33) are squeezed in between, while Southampton sit directly above Newcastle with 36. All these teams are still involved in a rush to get as far away from the red line as possible.
As for Newcastle’s form, they’ve lost only one of their last six league games, a 3-0 thrashing away to Brighton. Before that they drew 0-0 against West Bromwich Albion and 1-1 at home against Aston Villa, and afterwards, they won 1-2 away at Burnley and 3-2 at home against West Ham.
Despite being where they are in the table and obviously not being involved in the Super League fiasco, manager Steve Bruce was asked about the failed project at his pre-match press conference, and he delivered a rather scathing view of the behaviour of the top six clubs. He also stressed the importance of the supporters of the clubs involved speaking up, and warned that the league must remain on guard against such moments in the future as well.
Midfielder Isaac Hayden and goalkeeper Karl Darlow are both out with knee injuries and won’t be back any time soon, Bruce has confirmed. The same goes for winger Ryan Fraser who’s had a groin surgery, and defenders Fabian Schar (knee) and Jamal Lascelles (ankle).
Bruce will likely go with five at the back again, which means Paul Dummett, Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez are set to stand in front of goalkeeper Martin Dubravka again, probably flanked by Matt Ritchie on the left and Jacob Murphy on the right.
There is not much to say ahead of this match except the obvious. Both team desperately need the points up for grabs at Anfield on Saturday, and it’ll likely be Liverpool who get all three. Mohamed Salah came off the bench against Leeds, and there’s an interesting pattern involving the Egyptian forward – he’s started 14 games on the bench for Liverpool, and scored in nine of those that followed directly.
Verdict: Mohamed Salah to score
Best odds: 8/15
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