Liverpool take on Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle at Anfield in a game that will surely be an unusual one for the ex Liverpool manager.
He’s obviously a professional and would never deliberately throw a game just to do Liverpool fans a favour, but part of him must be excited about how Liverpool are going this season, and therefore trying to bring it to a halt must feel bizarre.
Nevertheless, Newcastle are a strong side and will certainly be up for the match. The Reds will need to keep their heads down and get through another test.
Liverpool Predicted Lineup and Team News
TAA has returned to full training and could play against the Magpies. However, if Klopp is keen to keep him fresh for the big games against Arsenal and Manchester City, he could turn to one of either Clyne or Milner, although the latter reportedly has a tight hamstring.
Meanwhile, Keita has also returned to training following the superficial abdominal injury he sustained against Wolves. Klopp, as usual, has plenty of options in central midfield, which is perhaps the hardest area of the team to predict against Newcastle. Hendo, Gini, Fab, Lallana, and possibly Milner are all options.
Salah seems undroppable at the moment as he continues to outshine his attacking colleagues. Either one or both of Firmino or Mane could get a rest though with Shaq, Studge, or Origi perhaps the most likely to come in.
Newcastle Predicted Lineup and Team News
Ki Sung-Yueng has departed for the Asian Cup and Jonjo Shelvey is still a major doubt for the trip to Liverpool on Boxing Day, so Isaac Hayden may be handed a rare start in central midfield.
Along with Shelvey, Ciaran Clark, Karl Darlow, and Florian Lejeune are also in doubt. Kenedy could be handed a recall after being used only as a substitute against Fulham, while Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu could potentially drop to the bench with a tactical alteration.
Jacob Murphy is another option out wide, while Joselu could be handed a run-out up front if the Newcastle manager wishes to preserve Salomon Rondon’s legs for more ‘winnable’ matches over the festive period.
Benitez has used a 5-4-1 in matches against the ‘big six clubs’ this season, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him use this formation again, with Federico Fernandez perhaps returning to central defence and Paul Dummett moving over to left-back.
Liverpool will be taking the same approach into this game as they have with every other. They’ll be calm but decisive on the ball, as well as alert and disciplined without it.
Rafa’s boys will have their work cut out for them, but they do have the pace and power in key areas to trouble any team when everything clicks.
Newcastle will sit back as deep as they can without the ball and look to soak up as much pressure as possible before lumping the ball forward quickly in search of fouls and set-pieces.
Liverpool on the other hand will take their time looking for the key that will ultimately unlock the visitors’ defence.
Once the first goal goes in though, Liverpool will take full control and easily walk away as 3-0 winners.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 26/12/2018