Football, like life, can be cruel. It is now odds on that this Liverpool side, which has – at the time of writing – 91 points, scored 84 goals, and conceded just 20 goals (with the same amount of clean sheets) won’t win a trophy this season.
Their current points tally, which is more than Arsenal’s Invincible – and they could still earn 97 points – would have been enough to win the Premier League title in 14 different seasons since the beginning of the revamped top-flight. Had it not been for two measurements of less than 10 centimetres in total, they could be on course for an unbeaten season with the target of 100 points too. Life isn’t fair.
Their Champions League semi-final defeat to Barcelona has taken their destiny out of their own hands, but a 3-0 defeat was harsh. The genius of Lionel Messi has pretty much put Barcelona in the final but they should have scored at least once with Sadio Mane and Mo Salah having big chances whilst Ter Stegen made a number of excellent second half saves.
They now face Newcastle with the aim of putting more pressure on Manchester City, and they’re understandably very short to do so. They’d won ten on the spin before their defeat at Barcelona, when the expected goals count read 2.6-1.8 in the hosts favour. Sadio Mane (20 goals in the Premier League this season) drew a rare blank but it would be harsh to blame him given that he’s scored 16 in 2019 already whilst Salah (leading Premier League scorer with 21 goals) has five in his last seven.
Adding all that to a 49-point gap between Newcastle and Liverpool, and one can see just how there’s such a big gap between the two, but things might not be that simple. As is the norm under Rafa Benítez – who took Liverpool to a Champions League title in 2005 – Newcastle have made themselves safe with a strong finish to the season and built upon a fine run of results at St James’ Park.
They have won six of their last seven here (the exception being an unlucky defeat to Crystal Palace) and in that run was a 2-1 defeat of Manchester City. Salomon Rondon has been imperative this season during the difficult midwinter months and has been involved in nearly 50% of Newcastle, whilst Ayoze Perez is now the club’s leading Premier League scorer following a run of seven goals in seven league games.
Those two have proven to be very potent on the break although Perez is unlikely to make it, which means that the likes of Matt Ritchie and Fabian Schar will be aiming to hit Rondon on the break.
Benítez’ gameplan is likely to be an exact copy of the strategy they used against Manchester City; Sitting deep in the final third and man marking the elite attackers – in this case Mane and Salah – and then springing on the break.
Newcastle United v Liverpool
19:45 Sky Sports Premier League / Sky Sports Main Event / Sky Sports Ultra HD
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
DEC 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 4-0 Newcastle
MAR 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle
OCT 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Newcastle 1-1 Liverpool
APR 2016 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 2-2 Newcastle
DEC 2015 PREMIER LEAGUE Newcastle 2-0 Liverpool
APR 2015 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle
NOV 2014 PREMIER LEAGUE Newcastle 1-0 Liverpool
MAY 2014 PREMIER LEAGUE Liverpool 2-1 Newcastle
OCT 2013 PREMIER LEAGUE Newcastle 2-2 Liverpool
APR 2013 PREMIER LEAGUE Newcastle 0-6 Liverpool
Against City they won – despite going behind in the first minute, having just one corner, two shots on target, and 24% possession, and whilst that approach hasn’t always worked against the top sides, they’ve given them a hard time during the whole campaign. Of the big six, only Manchester United have won here by more than one goal and that was courtesy of an 80th minute Marcus Rashford goal when the hosts were in need of (and chasing) a point. Newcastle would have won five of their six games against the top six with a two goal handicap and that could be the bet here, along with a tiny bet on Newcastle to run the party.
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