Verdict: Home win to nil
Best odds: 11/8
Liverpool are set to welcome Newcastle United to Anfield on Wednesday evening as the season grows more condensed, leading towards the break forced by the timing of the World Cup in Qatar. The match will be a part of round five of the Premier League campaign, and it’ll surely be an interesting clash of two teams with high aspirations.
The season started far from the best possible way for Liverpool. They failed to win any of the opening three matches, matches they were expected to win with all due respect to Fulham, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United who had come into that contest on the back of a heavy thrashing by Brentford. They first drew 2-2 at Craven Cottage, then 1-1 against Palace at Anfield, and went on to lose to United for the first time in four years at Old Trafford, 2-1.
Their reaction to this unexpectedly poor run was emphatic, and it was Bournemouth who took the brunt of their anger at Anfield on Saturday. Luis Diaz (twice), Harvey Elliott, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Roberto Firmino (twice), Virgil van Dijk, an own-goal from Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham and the first Liverpool goal for Fabio Carvalho set the scoreline at a whopping 9-0. Now, however, it’s time to come back to reality, as manager Jurgen Klopp himself warns – such freaky scorelines aren’t likely to happen that often.
At the moment, Liverpool are in ninth place with five points, a whole seven less than Arsenal at the top of the league and five less than defending champions Manchester City in second. The table means very little still, of course, but the Merseysiders will want to climb back up the ladder as soon as possible, lest it be too late.
One of the reasons for the poor run was surely the heavy injury crisis that has been plaguing Klopp’s players since the start.
At the back, they will be without Ibrahima Konate (knee) for a while yet, but Joel Matip has returned to training and it remains to be seen if he’s ready to play. Most likely he will be on the bench, leaving the starting spot next to Virgil van Dijk in the heart of defence to Joe Gomez again. Right-back Calvin Ramsay is also back, but he won’t be challenging Trent Alexander-Arnold for the starting spot just yet.
The midfield section has been hit most heavily. Thiago Alcantara (thigh), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (thigh) and Naby Keita (muscle) are still out, but Curtis Jones could be in contention after recovering from a calf problem.
There’s no news when it comes to the attacking options at Klopp’s disposal, which means Diogo Jota remains unavailable through a thigh injury and Darwin Nunez will be serving the last of the three matches of suspension following the red card he got against Crystal Palace. Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah are therefore set to flank Firmino again.
Newcastle are becoming more and more interesting, both as a club and as a team. The new owners have now had two transfer windows to overhaul the squad at Eddie Howe’s disposal. There’s money to spend, obviously, as much as the Financial Fair Play regulations allow, and there have been fine additions to their ranks.
The latest one is Alexander Isak, a 22-year-old striker who has joined the Magpies from Real Sociedad in a deal reportedly worth €70 million after attracting interest from clubs across Europe with fine performances in Spain.
The season could’ve started better for Howe and his men too, but they have done slightly better than Liverpool so far. They’ve managed to avoid getting beaten, even though one of their four matches was against Manchester City. They first beat Nottingham Forest at home by 2-0, then played a goalless draw away to Brighton and Hove Albion, a thrilling one at home against City which ended 3-3, and their last outing was at Molineux, where a beautiful last-gasp strike from Allan Saint-Maximin cancelled out Ruben Neves’ first-half opener for Wolverhampton Wanderers, which wasn’t too bad either.
So with six points, Newcastle are currently in seventh place, and walking away from Anfield undefeated would surely increase their confidence for the matches ahead.
Howe is currently sweating over the availability of Saint-Maximin, who picked up a hamstring problem in the final seconds of the Wolves clash, as Howe revealed. The winger has been on fire recently, and his absence would certainly represent a blow for Newcastle’s hopes of a good result at Anfield.
Striker Callum Wilson is out with a thigh problem, and it remains to be seen of Howe is able to include Isak into the matchday squad so soon. If neither Isak nor Saint-Maximin can play, Newcastle’s attacking ranks will be heavily depleted.
Further more, midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is a doubt with a thigh problem too, Howe says. Former Liverpool man Jonjoe Shelvey won’t be back from his own thigh issue until December.
Defender Emil Krafth will be out for the most of the season, having suffered an ACL tear.
After a convincing goalscoring performance last time out, which incidentally led to Bournemouth sacking manager Scott Parker, Liverpool will probably be looking to tighten at the back as the next step back towards the top. Even though the Cherries posed little threat in front of Alisson’s goal, the Reds’ defending left a lot to be desired in previous matches.
The aim for the hosts will still be to win, and given their vast quality they will probably succeed in inflicting Newcastle with their first defeat of the season. A clean sheet would hardly be surprising, especially if Saint-Maximin and Isak both miss out along with Wilson.
Verdict: Home win to nil
Best odds: 11/8
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