After 6 years of thriving under his rule, Liverpool return to St James Park to face Rafa Benítez, this time as their opponent rather than ally.
History has favoured this fixture with many goals and a few cracking matches, making it a must-watch game for neutrals as well as fans of both sides. With both teams following a similar line of form, expect an absolute goal-fest to ensue.
After a string of draws and defeats, involving a 5-0 rollicking, Liverpool are finally back to winning ways, albeit in their usual controversial manner.
Late drama ensued at the King Power stadium to ensure them a 3-2 victory in their latest game; evidence of their unpredictability.
Despite being Mane-less, the fresh integration of a certain Brazilian alongside an Egyptian with the Midas touch, allowed Liverpool to bag 2 goals early in the first half. The foxes came roaring back exposing Liverpool’s proclivity to concede goals with an average of 1.83 goals per game, but the Red Men held firm to grab 3 points.
With just one win in their last six games, Antony Taylor blowing for the final whistle coincided with a great sigh of relief from Liverpool fans around the world. Jurgen Klopp’s men now sit in 5th place after 6 games, eyeing Spurs ahead of them.
Perhaps in similar style, Rafa Benitez’s side, fresh from promotion to the Premier league, began the season woefully. A red card for captain Jonjo Shelvey made the headlines after his team capitulated against Spurs and threw away a 1-0 lead, leading to a 3-1 loss.
This was followed by defeat by the hands of Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield that once again saw fans questioning the Spaniard’s tactics. Yet just like Liverpool, Rafa’s men have recently been rejuvenated with 3 wins on the trot, against the likes of West Ham and Swansea.
Their performances have been enhanced by Matt Ritchie who has been providing assists for goals left right and centre. The recent victory pushes them up to 7th position in the league, not far off from Klopp’s team.
Yet, Benitez has the upper hand with star player Florian Lejeune in contention to face Liverpool after picking up an ankle injury in that game to forget against Tottenham. Benítez himself is on the road to recovery after surgery during the international break saw him miss the victory against Swansea.
On the other hand, Liverpool are still without Adam Lallana, who despite having returned to training, will still need the better part of a month to regain full match fitness. Defender Clyne still needs 3-6 months to heal from a hamstring injury; the only positive update features Danny Ings taking part in Liverpool’s latest game after being sidelined for months.
Head to head Liverpool have won 24 games in comparison to Newcastle’s 11, appearing to be the stronger team on paper. Yet Newcastle have 10 home wins to their name across the years; in their own back yard, with the deafening roar of their supporters filling St James Park, Jurgen Klopp’s men will find it difficult to break down Benitez’s team.
In their most recent meeting, Liverpool were held to a 2-2 draw with late drama nearly invoking a defeat, proving that St James’ Park is just as much of a fortress to the Tyneside faithful as Anfield is to the Kop.
Predictions? Liverpool will emerge as victors with a final score-line of 4-3. Expect goals galore from both sides, a few awful refereeing decisions as has become the norm of late, and a no love lost between Liverpool fans and Rafa Benitez.