Liverpool head to St James’ Park this evening for their Premier League clash against Newcastle United, and Jurgen Klopp will surely be hoping that his team can take the winning confidence shown in the Merseyside derby into today’s match.
Victory over Eddie Howe’s side could further close the gap between Liverpool in ninth and the Champions League qualifying places inside the top four, putting them just six points behind their fourth-placed opponents if they can secure all three points, and with a game in hand too.
In terms of injuries, Klopp will be delighted that a number of his experienced key players have returned to the fold this week, with Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino coming off the bench against Everton on Monday night and Virgil van Dijk set for a return following a hamstring injury.
The German stated in his pre-match press conference on Friday that the Dutch centre-back could make his first start since the beginning of January against Newcastle, saying: “Yesterday he looked absolutely ready. I think today he will look the same and then we make a decision.”
Ibrahima Konate, Luis Diaz, Thiago Alcantara, Calvin Ramsey and Arthur Melo remain unavailable for selection.
What could Liverpool’s XI look like against Newcastle?
Alisson Becker (GK), Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB), Joe Gomez (CB), Virgil van Dijk (CB), Andy Robertson (LB), Fabinho (DM), Naby Keita (RCM), Stefan Bajcetic (LCM), Mohamed Salah (RW), Roberto Firmino (ST), Cody Gakpo (LW)
We predict three changes to the side which beat Everton earlier this week, with Klopp’s classic 4-3-3 formation likely to match that of Newcastle tonight.
With a crucial Champions League clash against Real Madrid coming up for Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday night, the manager could look to make some subtle tweaks to give some of his experienced players who have been played consistently over the last few months a well-earned rest.
The first change we expect to see is Van Dijk’s return to the starting XI alongside an otherwise unchanged defensive setup, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez retaining their places as Joel Matip drops to the bench, having been the Reds’ lowest-rated defender by Sofascore against Everton.
In midfield, our second predicted change sees Naby Keita replace Jordan Henderson to complete the central trio alongside Fabinho and Stefan Bajcetic, again an opportunity for Klopp to rest his captain ahead of the European game in three days’ time.
The third and final change we expect to see is in the forward line, with Darwin Nunez making way for Firmino to start in between the wide duo of Cody Gakpo and Mohamed Salah, the two goalscorers in the derby triumph.
The £180k-per-week Brazilian – who was dubbed a “phenomenon” by Anthony Modeste – has scored one goal and registered four assists against Newcastle in 11 league outings, so has previous in offering a real threat for the Magpies and remains Liverpool’s second-highest scorer in the Premier League despite not featuring from mid-November until last Monday.
Nunez pays the price for failing to score in his six top-flight appearances since the league resumed following the World Cup.
A result tonight will be important to maintain Liverpool’s progression in the league, but there is no doubt that the manager will have one eye on the Champions League clash in just three days’ time, so utilising the opportunity to rotate his team slightly could pay off massively.
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