Verdict: Total goals under 2.5
Best odds: 6/5
Newcastle United will be playing host to Liverpool on Saturday, in what will be the 35th Premier League match of the season for the Magpies and the 34th for the Reds, and a contest the outcome of which will bear different levels of significance for the teams involved.
One of the big questions for the future of the Premier League at the moment is how long it will take for Newcastle to successfully follow in the footsteps of the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City and climb to the top-end of the table, now that they’ve got their own super-rich owners. They’ve already shown muscle in the January transfer window by signing Bruno Guimaraes ahead of the likes of Arsenal and Juventus, as well as bringing former Tottenham Hotspur right-back Kieran Trippier back to England from Atletico Madrid. Recent reports claim they’ve made an offer to Paulo Dybala, whose contract with Juventus is about to expire.
There was a time this season when the Magpies seemed destined for a relegation fight, but they’ve successfully climbed the ladder since and had the climb come sooner or started from a higher position, they could’ve perhaps even landed a place in Europe next season. As it is, Eddie Howe’s team are in ninth place with 43 points, five less than Wolverhampton Wanderes in eighth who also have a game in hand on them, and nine less than West Ham in seventh.
Newcastle’s recent form can be described as excellent, even though their last-six run started with defeats 1-0 away to Everton and 5-1 away to Tottenham Hotspur. They won the remaining four matches, 1-0 at home against Wolves, 2-1 at home against Leicester City, 1-0 at home against Crystal Palace, and 0-3 away to Norwich City.
Howe will still be without several long-term absentees for this match. Trippier (ankle), winger Ryan Fraser (hamstring), striker Callum Wilson (Calf), midfielder Isaac Hayden (knee), and left-back Jamal Lewis (groin), a former Liverpool target, are all out of action.
Howe has rediscovered Joelinton as a fine midfielder, and the Brazilian, who used to be a striker, should return to the middle of the park and allow Chris Wood to return to the lineup. Midfielders Miguel Almiron, and Jonjo Shelvey, who used to play for Liverpool once upon a time, and defender Fabian Schar will be hoping to start as well after being rested against Norwich.
But there are other teams flying high at the moment, and Liverpool are certainly one of them. Still in the hunt for the elusive quadruple, the Merseysiders cannot afford to be dropping any points at this stage, and they’ll be hitting the home side with everything they’ve got. And they’ve got plenty to hit with.
Everything is going right for Liverpool at the moment. Within a week this month, they managed to beat Manchester United, Manchester City (FA Cup) and Everton. They’ve also successfully moved past Benfica to reach the Champions League semifinal, and they’ve already put one foot in the final by winning the first leg against Villarreal on Wednesday.
The only thing that still needs resolving as far as the Reds are concerned at the moment is the contract of Mohamed Salah, who hasn’t yet put pen to paper on a new deal even though his current one is about to enter its final 12 months. But on the other hand, if there is a contract more important for Liverpool than Salah’s right now, it’s that of manager Jurgen Klopp, and the fact that the German did sign a new four-year deal on Thursday will surely serve as a great confidence boost for his men for the final stretch of the season.
The only question around the potential availability of the players in Klopp’s squad revolves around Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian is on the way back from a foot injury which kept him out of the last couple of matches, and there has still been no confirmation on whether he’ll be involved at St. James Park.
Joel Matip is likely to return to the lineup ahead of Ibrahima Konate who played a great game against Villarreal. Diogo Jota will also be hoping for a start, ahead of either Sadio Mane or Luis Diaz. If Firmino proves ready to be involved, he’s likely to be left on the bench.
It has been a great couple of weeks for Newcastle, but their winning run is very likely to come to an end here. Liverpool are the better team, they are on top of their form, and unlike the Magpies, they have everything to play for. A win would take them to the top of the Premier League table, at least for a few hours, and they certainly don’t want to give Manchester City a chance to pull away in the title race.
There shouldn’t, however, be more than two goals in the match.
Verdict: Total goals under 2.5
Best odds: 6/5
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