Liverpool – $1.60 at Bet365.com
Newcastle – $6 at Bet365.com
Draw – $4.33 at Sportsbet.com
Liverpool – 7th
Newcastle – 19th
Premier League form
Liverpool – L D W W W
Newcastle – D L L W D
LIVERPOOL have left it rather late in the 2015-16 English Premier League season to start playing like a top-four team.
The Reds were outstanding on Wednesday night in their Merseyside derby win over Everton, bagging four unanswered goals to make it six wins from their last eight in the EPL.
It was a strong lineup that dealt with the Toffees, but Jurgen Klopp may ring the changes as Liverpool prepare for the first leg of the Europa League semifinals next Thursday.
The German manager will take confidence from the recent displays of youngsters such as Sheyi Ojo and Kevin Stewart, both of whom started in the wins over Stoke City and Bournemouth.
Most pleasing of all has been the emergence of Divock Origi, but the Belgian striker sustained a nasty ankle injury in the derby and will miss at least a month of football after scans confirmed ligament damage.
That opens the door for Daniel Sturridge, who scored his 50th Liverpool goal in the win over Everton and will relish the chance to reestablish himself as Klopp’s first-choice striker.
Speaking to reporters after the match, the England forward was quietly optimistic about the club’s prospects going forward.
“It was a great performance from the team. To beat our local rivals and give our fans bragging rights is always a beautiful feeling,” Sturridge said.
“The consistency is crucial to keep getting results. I wouldn’t necessarily say we have turned a corner but I’d say each game we’re getting stronger and as long as that continues hopefully we will be a successful team this season and in the future.
“There are some huge games up and everyone is looking forward to those, everyone is hyped up for them. But we’ve still got the Premier League games as well and Newcastle is a big game this weekend.”
There may be a warm reception for Rafa Benitez from the Kop, but history says that’s about as generous as Liverpool will be.
Newcastle haven’t won at Anfield since the 1993-94 season – the very first edition of the English Premier League.
It’s been a non-contest for the most part, as the Reds have claimed victory in 17 of their 20 meetings on Merseyside since.
Sitting 19th in the table with four games to go, the Magpies can’t afford to be embarrassed in the North West if they wish to retain their top-flight status.
They have shown marked improvement in their most recent outings, beating Swansea 3-0 on Saturday before holding Manchester City to a 1-1 draw in midweek.
Vurnon Anita, the goalscoring hero against the Citizens, wants the Toon to put up a good fight this weekend and bring that momentum into the final weeks of the season.
“It’s an away game and we need to show we can do it away as well, with the same intensity and the fighting spirit,” the Dutchman said on Newcastle’s official television channel.
“We just need to keep on going. We’re not there yet, we know that. We need to take it step by step, game by game, and work hard like the last two games and it will come for us.
“We know that in the position we’re in, we need to fight and we need to do it together and I think we showed it against City on Tuesday.
“I think it was a good team performance and we need to keep on going. The most important thing is to recover again and go for the game on Saturday.”
Liverpool team news
Origi’s ankle problem is just the latest in a series of high-profile injuries for the Reds.
They are already missing Jordan Henderson (knee) and Emre Can (ankle) in the heart of midfield, while Martin Skrtel (groin) and Christian Benteke (knee) are also unavailable.
Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva have done the job in the middle of the park, but one or both may be rested ahead of the clash with Villarreal next week.
That could mean another start for Stewart, while Ojo and Jordon Ibe could also get a run if Klopp decides to shelve any of James Milner, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho.
Possible Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Allen, Stewart, Ojo, Milner, Ibe, Sturridge.
Newcastle United team news
Injuries have cruelled the Toon all season long.
Goalkeepers Tim Krul and Rob Elliott are both out with ACL injuries, meaning third-choice Karl Darlow will man the sticks for the remainder of the campaign.
The rest of the defence is a makeshift affair, with Daryl Janmaat (groin), Fabricio Coloccini (calf), Massadio Haidara (knee), Steven Taylor (muscle) and Kevin Mbabu (hip) all sidelined.
Anita has deputised well at right-back in recent weeks, allowing Jack Colback to reclaim a midfield spot alongside Chieck Tiote.
Jonjo Shelvey is out of favour, while Rafa seems to prefer Moussa Sissoko ahead of Georginio Wijnaldum at the front of midfield.
Papiss Cisse is the main man up top, with Ayoze Perez and Andros Townsend the first-choice starters on either flank.
Possible Newcastle XI: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Tiote, Colback, Townsend, Sissoko, Perez, Cisse.
– Liverpool to win ($1.60 at Bet365)
– Correct score 2-0 ($9.50 at Bet365)
What is there to say? Liverpool are in excellent touch and haven’t lost to Newcastle at home in over 20 years. The Toon may be able to trouble them at set pieces, especially if Benitez throws on Aleksandr Mitrovic at some stage, but all signs point to a comfortable victory for Klopp and company.
Liverpool vs. Newcastle first goalscorer bets
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – $5 at Sportsbet
With Origi out, this is Sturridge’s chance to remind everyone that he’s still top dog in the Liverpool forward line. He’s looking sharper every week, with goals against Bournemouth and Everton, and should have plenty of opportunity this weekend.
Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool) – $8.50 at William Hill
Klopp has been happy to rotate his squad ahead of European ties, which means Ojo is a red-hot chance to start against Newcastle. With fast feet, direct movement and a good turn of pace, it’s only a matter of time before the 18-year-old opens his Premier League account.
Andros Townsend (Newcastle) – $15 at Sportsbet
Should the visitors stun the Kop by grabbing the opener, there’s a fair chance Townsend will be involved. The England international can be a real handful when he cuts in from the right flank, and there is no doubt Benitez will want to test the suspect defensive acumen of Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno as much as possible.
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