TOTT preview, Liverpool home
Newcastle entertain Liverpool as the new manager is set to be unveiled in public, 4 years to the day after being sacked by West Ham, leaving them in the relegation zone. Will the focus be more on the pitch, or off it?
The new manager was of course paraded in front of the media on Thursday, his televised conference being littered with mistakes, not least the previous manager`s name. Today, Alvin Perdue will finally be able to witness the reaction of the Tyneside public. He will hope for a warmer reception than the Hull match 2 years ago, when the first of Ashley`s 5 managerial appointments so far left the club.
This is not his first visit to St James` Park, having been manager in an early season encounter in 2005 which finished scoreless, the ever popular Graham Souness being his adversary on that day. Newcastle have tended to perform well when Perdue has been the home manager, winning both encounters when he was in charge at Upton Park.
By a strange quirk of fate, 5 years ago, Perdue`s next home match was against Newcastle. On that occasion the visitors ran out as 4-2 winners, the match remembered for a Michael Owen hat trick. The following season, saw Glenn Roeder take the Magpies to East London, the memorable moment of a 2-0 win being Shay Given`s hospitalisation after a clash with Marlon Harewood, the striker that Perdue preferred to Tevez.
Being an expert on Newcastle United, as he said during the press conference, he has seen match highlights on TV, unsurprisingly, he is relying on reserve team coaches, Peter Beardsley and Steve Stone to influence team selection.
The back five should be fairly straight forward, Paul Barron protégé Krul in goal, Simpson continuing at right back on his return to match fitness. The leading choices in the centre are Steve Taylor with veteran Sol Campbell who will know much about the new boss from his former mentor, Arsene Wenger. Enrique, should complete the quartet. With at least two of the back line having been outspoken over Hughton`s departure, it will be interesting to see if Perdue makes a start on his commitment to youth.
Midfield also should provide clues to the mood among the players.Tiote is the automatic pick while Guthrie may be available after his bizarre injury last week. Hughton supporters Jonas, Nolan and Barton are all contenders, the latter pair theoretically available after injury. Routledge will hope to keep his place on the wing.
Up front, Perdue will already know something about Newcastle number 9s, since the last 2 wearers of the shirt both scored in front of him at Upton Park. Supporters will hope that the assurance he says he was given by Llambias is not representative of other assurances the Chairman has given. Carroll should therefore start up front, with Ameobi or Ranger the most likely partners, although Lovenkrands` goal on Sunday could keep him in the reckoning.
After a torrid start to life at Liverpool, Roy Hodgson should be relishing the encounter this time, with a resurgent team. It will not be lost on him that Newcastle have not won a December fixture between these two clubs in 15 attempts since 1925. His own record as a manager at St James` includes a win with Fulham to go with a draw for Blackburn as well as another draw as assistant manager at Bristol City.
With no fresh injury concerns, Hodgson is set to start with Spanish keeper Reina. After putting England defender Johnson at right back, his biggest managerial challenge is likely to be getting the spellings right for the rest of the line up, Konchesky at left back with the imposing centre pair consisting of Slovak Martin Skrtel and Greek veteran Kyrgiakos.
Thankfully for the home team, Gerrard`s absence continues on one of his favourite away grounds. The midfield therefore has a distinct latin flavour, with Brazilian Lucas, Potuguese Meireles and Argentine Maxi Rodriguez. Dropping back we expect to see former Newcastle target, flexible Dutchman Kuyt.
Another former Toon target, Babel seems most likely to make way for the returning top league scorer, Fernando Torres, with the top scorer in European competition, Ngog in what promises to be a potent attack.
Referee for the occasion is Lee Mason, last seen by the Toon at home against Blackpool. Newcastle have yet to win under him, having also experienced a home 0-0 against Everton, as well as a League Cup draw at Watford and 4-1 defeat at Villa and 2-2 draw at Boro. Although he hails from the North West, his Liverpool record is 2 wins in 9 games, with 5 draws, 4 of them scoreless.
Liverpool`s away form is poor, with a solitary win on their travels, that being at Bolton in October. Newcastle`s home form has not been much better, with 2 wins, but what wins they were, seeing 12 goals in total. Since Newcastle`s first season in the Premier League, during which we did the double, Newcastle have only 4 league wins over the Scousers in 30 attempts.
When starting in the bottom half of the table, the Magpies have not lost a game so far this season. However, that was with a Hughton inspired team, If the Toon can pull of a rare win over Liverpool this evening, it would prove a fitting tribute for the departed manager.
Newcastle (from): Krul, Soderberg, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, S. Taylor, Campbell, Kadar, Barton, Tiote, Smith, Routledge, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Nolan, Vuckic, Tavernier, Donaldson, Carroll, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Ranger, Xisco.
Liverpool (from): Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Konchesky, Lucas, Meireles, Kuyt, Rodriguez, Torres, Ngog, Jones, Aurelio, Kelly, Poulsen, Jovanovic, Cole, Babel, Shelvey.
Newcastle v Liverpool at St James`:
79 W33 D23 L23 F114 A93
16 W6 D4 L6 F20 A27