Newcastle United are unbeaten in their last three league games against Liverpool and they’ll be looking to extend that run this weekend when they travel to Anfield.
Rafa Benitez returns to one of his former clubs with a side who have been in pretty good form in recent weeks, but he’ll be fully aware of the task ahead, such is the ferocity that Liverpool attack with.
To get the lowdown about all things Liverpool, we spoke to James Pearce, reporter from the Liverpool Echo.
Here’s what James had to say:
1. Liverpool are in very good form at the moment, what would you put that down to?
There’s a belief and a spirit running through the side at the moment which supporters are loving. Clearly, the form of the front three is massively important. Mo Salah has been a revelation and Roberto Firmino just gets better and better, while Sadio Mane has clicked back into gear. Players in other departments have also stood up and made big contributions. The full-backs, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, have been outstanding of late and Virgil van Dijk has been a commanding presence in the middle. The experience of James Milner in a young team is invaluable and it was important to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain grasp his chance after being handed a recall against West Ham.
2. A few eyebrows were raised at the price tag for Virgil van Dijk, have his performances lived up to the amount spent on him?
It was a huge sum of money but that was the price Liverpool had to pay and Klopp was absolutely convinced that Van Dijk ticked all the boxes. So far it looks like a wise investment. After a couple of uncertain displays as he built up his fitness and adjusted to the change in style, the Dutchman has really shown his class. He’s strong in the air and he’s the defensive leader the Reds have lacked since Jamie Carragher retired. I also think Dejan Lovren has benefited from having Van Dijk alongside him.
3. Looking ahead to the game, if you were in Rafa Benitez’s shoes, how would you look to set your team up against Liverpool? It looks like they’ve been able to cope pretty well with teams who sit back or teams who have a go at them.
Newcastle are locked in a relegation battle and anything they can get from this game they would regard as a bonus. I can’t see Benitez taking many risks. He will set them up to contain Liverpool and then hope to nick a goal from a counter attack or via a set-piece. When Liverpool perform like they have done in recent weeks, it’s very difficult to stop them. How would I set my team up against Liverpool? West Brom actually had some joy in the FA Cup from taking the game to them. But when that approach doesn’t work, you can leave yourself horribly exposed like we saw over in Porto. If I was in charge of Newcastle, I’d park the bus and hope for the best. They aren’t good enough to go toe to toe with Klopp’s side.
4. When we saw this fixture as a late kick off on Saturday and with Liverpool having a Champions League tie on the Tuesday, we thought we might face a slightly weaker Liverpool side. However, would it be fair to say that Jurgen Klopp will go full strength here and make plenty of changes for what’s pretty much a dead rubber on Tuesday night?
There’s no question that Klopp will go full strength. Liverpool are only four points clear of fifth placed Chelsea and with a trip to Old Trafford next weekend, three points is crucial in the race for a top-four finish. With Liverpool 5-0 up going into that second leg against Porto, I fully expect his fringe players to get a run out that night. He certainly doesn’t need to hold anyone back for the Champions League game.
5. Finally, care to make a prediction?
I fear it could be a long night for Newcastle. Liverpool may have to be patient but I can see Klopp’s side running out 3-0 winners
Thanks to James for answering our questions.