It has been a whirlwind of a week for Newcastle. They parted company with their manager Chris Hughton due a perceived lack of experience, only to replace him with Alan Pardew – whose CV hardly embarrasses his predecessors’. Mike Ashley clearly is a man who aspires to be pantomime villain No.1 in the North East this Christmas.
Murmurs of discontent abound, with fans promising to demonstrate against the appointment ahead of the game on Saturday. Suffice to say, if Pardew can deliver three points on Saturday there will be a heavy sigh of relief within the corridors of power at St James’. Newcastle are sliding down the table, and don’t have much breathing space before they are sucked into the mire.
It’s been a peculiar season for Liverpool, by all accounts they’ve been far from brilliant thus far - yet they sit in eighth position in the league. The problem has been securing back-to-back wins in the league, with the victories against Blackburn, Bolton and Chelsea the only consecutive triumphs the club has tasted this term.
The trip up to Tyneside is as good an opportunity as any to put this right. Newcastle’s home form has been unspectacular this season, and with new boss Alan Pardew promising an attacking brand of football, there could be ample opportunity for Liverpool to strike on the counter. The Reds will be hoping three points would start to see them pull away from the middle of the Premier League pile and towards the coveted Champions League spots.
Alan Pardew will be able to call upon Joey Barton as the midfielder returns from suspension, but it looks as if captain Kevin Nolan (ankle) will remain sidelined.
Steve Harper (collar bone) returned to action this week, saving a penalty as his side cruised to a 7-1 victory in a specially arranged practice game against Middlesbrough. Despite featuring for 65 minutes, it’s expected that Harper’s deputy Tim Krul will keep his place in goal against Liverpool.
With centre-backs Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson still suspended, expect Sol Campbell and Steven Taylor to start at the heart of Newcastle’s defense. Other absentees include Ryan Taylor (ankle), Hatem Ben Arfa (leg) and Dan Gosling (knee).
Possible starting XI: Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Campbell, Enrique; Routledge, Barton, Tiote, Gutierrez; Carroll, Ameobi.
Captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring) and Daniel Agger (calf) are on the verge of returning to the first team squad but manager Roy Hodgson has confirmed that both will miss out on the trip to Tyneside.
With Jamie Carragher (shoulder) out for the next few months, Liverpool will continue with the powerful combination of Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Martin Skrtel at center-back.
Fernando Torres missed last weekend’s 3-0 win against Aston Villa as his wife gave birth to their child, meaning that the Spaniard will return to the starting line-up for the visitors. Jay Spearing (ankle) is the only other absentee for Liverpool.
Possible starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Konchesky; Kuyt, Meireles, Lucas, Maxi; Ngog, Torres.