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Preview: Newcastle United vs. Liverpool

:Headline: Preview: Newcastle United vs. Liverpool:
Sports Mole previews Sunday afternoon's Premier League meeting between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park.
By , Senior Reporter | 1y

Liverpool head to St James' Park on Sunday afternoon for a reunion with former boss Rafael Benitez, who is now aiming to keep Newcastle United in top-half contention in the Premier League.

The Reds have had a mixed start to the league campaign, having won half of their six games thus far, and this result will go a long way to determining the mood around Anfield during the upcoming two-week break.

Newcastle United

Like Liverpool, Newcastle have themselves experienced up-and-down emotions during the opening couple of months of the season after winning three and losing four of their games.

A three-match losing run was followed up by three victories on the bounce, leading to Benitez joking that Champions League football was now the target, but a 1-0 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend has left them feeling flat once more.

Still, nine points from their first six games back at this level is far from a disastrous record, and the Magpies have also turned their home into something of a fortress thanks to just two defeats on Tyneside in 15 league outings.

Ten of those matches here have ended in victory, too, including back-to-back triumphs over West Ham United and Stoke City, but United have not won three of their first four home Premier League games in more than a decade.

That omen might not be so good, but in Benitez they have an experienced manager capable of pulling off big wins in the top tier, with the Spaniard also boasting a pretty impressive record against the club that he managed for six years up to 2010.

Benitez is unbeaten in four meetings with Liverpool down the years, claiming home and away wins in the Champions League while at Valencia, before drawing when in charge of Chelsea and Newcastle.

It is fair to say that the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss is still well regarded around the red half of Merseyside, largely thanks to his famous 2005 European Cup success, while also winning the FA Cup 12 months later in equally memorable circumstances.

Interestingly, Benitez accrued 134 points in his opening 74 games at the Anfield helm - one fewer than current incumbent Klopp, who has failed to find a sustained winning formula during his first two years in charge.

Recent form in Premier League: LLWWWL
Recent form (all competitions): LLWWWL


The biggest problem facing Klopp on the face of it is his side's inability to defend, shipping 11 goals already in the Premier League this season - the joint-fifth worst record in the entire division.

Ten of those goals have come on their travels, giving them their worst-ever such record from their opening three away games, with half being conceded in the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City immediately after the international break.

Since putting four past Arsenal in a scintillating display, the Reds have won once in six outings and scored a pretty disappointing - by their standards, at least - seven goals in the process.

Despite missing a raft of chances in front of goal in recent weeks, seeing them drop vital points in Europe against Sevilla and Spartak Moscow, Klopp insists that he has full faith in his attacking players to soon click back into gear.

If Liverpool are to climb further up the table from their current position of fifth, the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah - dubbed the 'Fab Four' by supporters - must fire on all cylinders to ensure that they outscore the opposition.

It is not the greatest formula for a side with aspirations of winning the title, granted, but contrary to the popular belief, a strong attack gives you a better chance of coming out on top than a solid defence - the key, of course, being a mixture of both.

Liverpool have a decent enough away record, winning five of their last eight away from Anfield in the Premier League and losing just one - that heavy loss at the Etihad Stadium on September 9, when down to 10 men, that has skewed their defensive figures somewhat.

The Reds are also unbeaten in their last 23 matches in the month of October, winning 13 of those, so this would be a good time to finally put a winning run together and prove that they are serious contenders at the top this time around.

Recent form in Premier League: DWWLDW
Recent form (all competitions): LDDLWD

Team News

Newcastle can call upon Aleksandar Mitrovic once again following his recent suspension for elbowing Manuel Lanzini in the win over West Ham, but Benitez may instead opt to stick with Joselu in the lone-striking role.

Florian Lejeune is doubtful due to an ankle injury, and Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara also remain absent, so the Magpies will likely go with a settled XI from last time out.

Benitez could take a gamble by fielding Dwight Gayle, however, as the striker netted four goals in four outings against Liverpool during his Crystal Palace days - his best-such record against any top-flight opponents.

As far as the visitors are concerned, Mane returns from a three-match ban and will almost certainly link up with Coutinho, Firmino and Salah in attack - a partnership that Klopp has described as "unbelievable".

Joe Gomez did not travel to Russia in midweek for the 1-1 draw with Spartak due to suspension and could therefore be used at the back here, while Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana remain absent.

Klopp has chopped and changed between the sticks this season depending on the competition, but Simon Mignolet is the favourite to be given the nod for this clash, with Loris Karius making way.

Newcastle United possible starting lineup:
Elliot; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba; Hayden, Merino; Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Joselu

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Klavan, Robertson; Can, Henderson, Coutinho; Salah, Sturridge, Mane

Head To Head

Newcastle have won four and drawn one of their last six home games against the Reds, winning the most recent encounter here in December 2015.

The Magpies' 72 defeats to Liverpool is their most against any top-flight opponent, though, tasting defeat three times in the last eight encounters overall.

There has not been a goalless draw between these two sides since 1974, meanwhile, in a run that spans some 67 meetings - one of 11 stalemates in their 173 past meetings.

We say: Newcastle United 2-3 Liverpool

Keeping out the opposition is once again proving to be Liverpool's downfall this term, while the goals at the other end have also dried up somewhat. The Reds won 3-2 on their travels last time out in the league, though, and they do not tend to lose fixtures in the month of October.

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