Sunday will see Rafa Benitez take on Liverpool for the first time since 2013. The former Liverpool manager was in charge for six years, between 2004 and 2010, and is still close to the club, while being well respected by the fans. He had great success with Reds, holding a win rate of just over 55%, picking up four trophies along the way, most famously the 2005 Champions League. Now in charge of Newcastle United, Benitez will be looking to get one over on his previous employers as his current side are enjoying a positive start to the season. Despite being newly-promoted, the Magpies sit in ninth spot, just four places and two points behind Liverpool. This will not be an easy game away trip for Liverpool, who are so desperately in need of a result.
Liverpool Team News
There’s expected to be several changes to this Liverpool side, due to the midweek fixture with Spartak Moscow. Simon Mignolet will come back into the starting lineup, as Liverpool’s number one league ‘keeper. After Loris Karius was held accountable for the Russian side’s only goal on Tuesday, it might not be too long until we see the Belgian playing in the Champions League as well. With Joe Gomez suspended for the last European game, Trent Alexander-Arnold got the nod in midweek. However, Gomez will start at right-back tomorrow, as Jurgen Klopp continues to rotate his young defenders. There also appears to be a rotation policy over at left-back as well and with Alberto Moreno taking the last two matches it may be time for Andy Robertson once again. In my personal opinion, Robertson could be the more reliable choice but we haven’t seen enough of him yet to say for certain. In at centre-back, Dejan Lovren should be linking up with Joel Matip once again.
Since coming back into the side, Philippe Coutinho has been a breath of fresh air, and without a doubt, consistently our best player during a run of disappointing results. He’s dropped back into the centre of midfield this season to accommodate Mohamed Salah and will start in that position once again. He’ll be joined by captain, Jordan Henderson and most likely, Gini Wijnaldum. The Dutchman will be facing the side that Liverpool bought him from in 2016, for £23million. It is a toss-up, however, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Emre Can started instead of Wijnaldum.
It feels unusual that I should talk about Liverpool struggling in the attacking department, but that’s what I’m going to do. Having scored just six goals in their last six games from 121 shots, something needs to change. This doesn’t necessarily mean a change in personnel, but a couple of games with clinical finishing might to do the trick. Roberto Firminio had a particularly poor game against Moscow and Daniel Sturridge could be poised to take over as a hopeful throw of the dice. However, I fully expect the Brazilian to retain his starting spot as a show of faith from the boss. Sadio Mane will return on the wing after serving his three-match suspension and Salah will play opposite him. A vast improvement on finishing is needed from the guys up front for the fans to be satisfied tomorrow.
Predicted Lineup: Mignolet; Robertson, Matip, Lovren, Gomez; Coutinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah
Newcastle Team News
In spite of their above average start to the season, Newcastle will be keen to bounce back after last week’s loss to Huddersfield. Grant Elliot will be in goal having conceded just five goals in the opening six PL games and he will need to be on top form once again. Protecting him will be centre-back, Jamaal Lascelles, who is also his side’s top goalscorer, with just two. Florian Lejeune remains on the sideline with a ligament injury, so Ciaran Clark will maintain his starting position, uncontested. Lejeune is unlikely to be available for selection until after the international break.
Both Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara will be fit enough to take part meaning that the Newcastle backline will continue to need to be reshuffled. Although a natural central defender, Chancel Mbemba has been spending some time on the left side of defence and with the current injuries that trend looks set to continue.
Apart from that Newcastle will be looking to field an unchanged side as they have won three of their last four matches. Aleksandr Mitrovic is eligible to play again after completing his three-match ban, but will only make the bench.
Predicted Lineup: Elliot; Mbemba, Clark, Lascelles, Yedlin; Merino, Hayden; Atsu, Perez, Ritchie; Joselu.
Liverpool have a habit of making easy games very hard for themselves and they’ll come up a very defensive unit again tomorrow. I’d expect to see a lot of possession for the Reds and if they can find a few quality final balls and get their finishing boots on they should secure a positive result. I’m optimistically going to go for a 2-0 win to Liverpool.