Liverpool v Newcastle TOTT Preview
Newcastle visit Anfield for the Sunday morning televised encounter. If the press are to be believed, this match is all about just one man.
Yes, Alan Pardew has excelled himself in media coverage this week, not least in claiming that choosing this match to be covered was intended to heap embarrassment on Newcastle United. It is apparently nothing to do with the rich history of this game, the shared histories of the clubs, the outstanding support and the fantastic 4-3 matches from yesteryear or even Liverpool`s late charge for the Europa League or beyond.
There is a simple answer to Alan Pardew - if you don`t want to be embarrassed, don`t make embarrassing statements or sell the striker you promise won`t be sold, who was "going nowhere", "not at any price".
We have also been reminded that the Liverpool win at home was Pardew`s first as manager, even though team affairs for that week had been delegated to Steve Stone. As Pardew said this week "It was important for myself, the team and the people at the club to get a win." Well, Alan, we`re glad you did. He has also been reported as "happy with progress" since his first game. A mere 2 wins in the last 12 games suggest that he is easily pleased or has an alternative agenda.
Looking closer at the match itself, the TV companies will have been drawn by the fact that only one of these fixtures has finished goalless in over 80 years, that being in 1970. Newcastle`s last league win here was back in 1994, during Newcastle`s Keegan years. The last Toon point earned was under Sir Bobby Robson in May 2004.
There are some choices to be made for the Magpies, not least in goal Tim Krul has only conceded one goal in the last two games, recording a clean sheet against the league leaders. The official number 1, Steve Harper should be fit to reclaim his place.
Defensively there seems little reason to change a line up that has tended to perform well this season, having been thrown together by Chris Hughton last year. That means that we expect to see Simpson on the right, Coloccini paired with Williamson in the centre, with the Liverpool hierarchy given the opportunity to decide the worth of Enrique at left back. Steve Taylor is on standby to prove that he can punch above his weight in defence under the referee who sent him off for in a cup replay in 2007.
There will of course be a couple of Scousers in the home side, both in midfield and both scoring in the home match. Proud Evertonian, Barton has endured a few skirmishes and controversy at Anfield, memorably his sending off the last time these teams played here. Liverpudlian, Nolan is the clear top scorer for the visitors. Tiote will the only starter not to be involved in last season`s promotion with Jonas, reputedly a target under Hodgson, also set to enjoy the occasion. Ryan Taylor is the remaining Scouser available.
Forward options are also interesting. Having scored here back in 2004, Ameobi hopes to be fit to add to his Toon tally of 69 goals, more than double that of former Liverpool striker Michael Owen. Assured of his place following last week`s strike is Lovenkrands, who has scored more since the turn of the year than either of the home sides 2 new strikers. There is a young prospect on standby, in the shape of Nile Ranger with Kuqi also hoping to feature.
Liverpool are having a good run since Dalglish resumed the reins at Anfield, having gained 8 wins in their last 12 league matches. In the last 6 home games, they have conceded only 2 goals, leading to an unchanged back 5, starting with goalkeeper Reina.
Unusually for a Premier League side, the defence has a decidedly local flavour, led by Jamie Carragher with youngsters Flanagan and Robisnon on the flanks. The quartet will be made up by the man whose name is a strangely disappointing Scrabble score, Slovakian Martin Skrtel.
Midfield could see a change, but the flexible Kuyt, who once rejected Newcastle, looks set to test his potential team mate next year. Argentine Maxi Roriguez is said to be playing for his future against 2 compatriots, with creative flair also coming from Portuguese Miereles. Lucas haas solidified his position in the middle this season, whilst the young Spearing is said to be a target for the visitors.
January signing, the Mexican Suarez carries the South American flavour forward, proving a handful so far. Whether he is supported from midfield or playing as a part of a strike partnership will depend on some lanky kid, who also signed in January after hitching a lift in Mike Ashley`s helicopter, recovering from injury in time.
Referee for the occasion is from Northamptonshire, suspiciously named after an area of Liverpool situated to the North of Anfield, Peter Walton. His history with Newcastle does not make pretty reading, with 3 league defeats, one against Derby Couty and two on Merseyside, one of those at Goodison Park, the other at Anfield. Cup matches have yielded a home defeat and an away draw.
Walton`s last game here, however, resulted in an away win for Wolves. Prior to that, Liverpool had not been beaten in a run of 16 matches under him, including a 3-0 defeat of the Magpies.
Liverpool are then clearly favourites to walk away with this. Newcastle, though have not lost when starting in the bottom half of the league this season. To fail to score would create an Anfield record for the Magpies of 5 straight league visits without a goal. Don`t bet against the man of the moment, the man who gained his first point at Anfield in 3 attempts as manager, with Charlton in their Premier League relegation season.
Newcastle`s league record at Anfield
149 W47 D37 L71 F187 A260
Liverpool (from): Reina, Flanagan, Carragher, Skrtel, Robinson, Lucas, Spearing, Meireles, Rodriguez, Kuyt, Suarez, Carroll, Gulacsi, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Shelvey, Cole, Poulsen, Ngog, Coady.
Newcastle (from): Harper, Krul, Sodeberg, Simpson, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, S. Taylor, R. Taylor, Perch, Tiote, Barton, Gutierrez, Nolan, Vuckic, Tavernier, Richardson, Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Ranger, Kuqi.