Newcastle v Liverpool – Prematch opinion

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Brendan Rodgers takes his charges to  St. James’ Park this afternoon for this week’s early Barclays Premier League kick-off. A win could potentially lift Liverpool into fourth place in the extremely unlikely event that all the teams between them and fourth place lose. The Reds have a good record against Newcastle in recent times having not lost against the magpies in the last four meetings between the two teams (P2 W2 D2).

Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to build on back-to-back wins against the Alan Pardew’s side who themselves are unbeaten in their last four. This is a game most Liverpool fans would expect the side to win. Having spent £100m on supposedly bolstering the squad over the summer, there has been little evidence of that. Is Bolster a synonym for Better? I believe not and maybe herein lies Rodgers’ problem. Mario Balotelli has yet to prove his worth to the side after some less than convincing displays so far. Everyone will be hoping that the goal he scored in the midweek Carling Cup tie against Swansea will finally signal a change in fortunes for the 24 year-old Italian.

Balotelli’s compatriot Fabio Borini is also pushing for a starting position after impressing during the week. At this point in the season with Daniel Sturridge still out injured and summer signing Lazar Markovic yet to warrant even a starting place, let alone his £20m price tag, it’s got to be worth giving the ex-Chelsea forward a start. Despite the fact that I and many Liverpool fans don’t rate him, he’s obviously the best of a bad bunch providing the striking options for Rodgers.

With one eye on Real Madrid in the week and the visit of Chelsea next weekend, I think there may well be a change at the back with Jose Enrique possibly getting a start against his old side at left back and Glen Johnson possibly coming in at right back. Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel I expect to resume their partnership after the latter was rested in midweek. Mamadou Sakho still appears to be some way off a starting place and given the sale of Daniel Agger in the summer, has Lovren really improved the squad over what they had last season? I’d say not. However, statistically he and Sakho are the better pairing in the centre of defence.

Midfield should see the return of Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen after both being rested in mid week. Personally, I’d like to see a midfield three of Gerrard, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson, although it’s likely Rodgers will keep Henderson for the trip to Madrid. Thus Allen will probably start ahead of him. A front three of Adam Lallana, Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling should complete the outfield line up. The chances of Brad Jones retaining his place over Simon Mignolet is about as likely as me popping up to St. James’ Park and getting a game myself. Yes, zero chance would even be high odds. Still after Balotelli’s midweek performance, Rodgers has a selection headache – for a change because both he and Balotelli deserve a place..

With all the dreary performances this season thus far, I think Liverpool should come away with a win although if I were a betting man, I think a draw is more likely. The Reds have stuttered to a couple of decent results the last few games in the Premiership, and I see this being no different. Looking on the bright side, it bodes well for Sturridge’s return and a concerted push for fourth place over the Christmas period.

So, I’m off to get my back broken with a Thai massage. I just hope Liverpool can add some pleasure to my inevitable pain by bagging the three points today.

Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen

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