By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool will try to make up a tremendous amount of ground when they head to Sports Direct Arena in Newcastle on Sunday.
If the season started in January, the Reds would be flirting with relegation, and the form is in desperate need of change. Manager Kenny Dalglish may have taken a step in the right direction during the loss against bottom-feeders Wigan, as he put on starlet Raheem Sterling for his first-ever senior team cap. An injection of youth may help the club as the season winds down, especially with many of the elder players being rather ordinary in recent matches.
The club may also get some much-needed help this weekend, as Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Daniel Agger could all be fit. In addition, Maxi Rodriguez is expected to be in the mix for the squad after he is in better health after an illness.
It will be interesting to see the club’s intensity from the get-go. Liverpool has looked lackadaisical – at best – recently, and many of the players have shown their displeasure with their own performances.
However, playing Newcastle will be anything but easy.
The Magpies have had a wildly impressive year, and manager Alan Pardew may be putting together a manager of the year performance. The strike force of Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse has been extremely successful, with the two combining for 21 goals this campaign. Cisse had a brace in the club’s last match, a 3-1 victory against West Brom.
Newcastle will be without a few key players, and it could be important for Liverpool to exploit that fact. Fabricio Coloccini, Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi and Steven Taylor will all miss out, but Newcastle has been known to bend, not break this season, and this could be a testament to the club’s depth.
The Reds will need Andy Carroll to have a big game, and he will be absolutely motivated to make his mark in his old stomping grounds. If he and strike partner Luis Suarez can make a splash, Liverpool could roll.
A win will put Liverpool ahead of Everton for seventh, which a real chance to catch up to Newcastle by season’s end. Anything less, however, may be extremely deflating.
Liverpool v Newcastle
When: Sunday, April 1st 0830 EST/ 1330 GMT
Where: Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle
Premier League Table: Liverpool 8th (42 points), Newcastle 6th (50 points)
Last Premier League Match: Liverpool 1-2 Wigan, West Brom 1-3 Newcastle
Projected Newcastle Starting 11:
DEF: Taylor, Simpson, Williamson, Perch
MF: Cabaye, Guthrie, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez
FW: Cisse, Ba
Subs from: Elliot, Santon, Ferguson, Abeid, Gosling, Vuckic, Shola Ameobi, Tiote
Projected Liverpool Starting 11:
DEF: Johnson*, Skrtel, Agger*, Enrique
MF: Sterling, Gerrard, Spearing, Downing
FW: Suarez, Carroll
Subs from: Doni, Carragher, Kelly* Flanagan, Coates, Wilson, Coady, Wisdom, Maxi, Henderson, Bellamy, Eccleston
*= Late Fitness Tests