Liverpool yet again go into a match looking for a win to kick start their season. Newcastle will be the visitors on Friday night, looking to become the 7th team this season to take a point away from Anfield. On the back of draws against Wigan and Blackburn, the Reds will be desperate for victory, though it will have to be achieved without the services of Luis Suárez.
Liverpool go into the game against Newcastle having already dropped seven points in December, a run of fixtures which was supposed to give them a chance of climbing up the table. As in previous years, however, facing the ‘lesser’ teams in the league has been their undoing, and after defeat against Fulham, draws against two of the sides in the Premier League’s bottom three were real setbacks.
Their home form remains a concern as well. Though they have yet to be beaten at Anfield, they have drawn six of their nine home games, claiming wins only against Sunderland, Bolton and Queens Park Rangers. For that reason alone Newcastle will be confident of taking at least a point from the match.
Newcastle themselves, however, aren’t in the best of form. With defensive issues still plaguing them, they have taken just five points from their last seven matches, with Monday’s win over Bolton their first since defeating Everton on 5th November. They do, however, have the most in form striker in the league. Demba Ba has scored 14 league goals in 17 appearances this season, and 21 in 32 games since he moved to the Premier League with West Ham just under a year ago, the sort of goal scoring record that Liverpool badly need at the moment.
The build up to the game has been dominated by the suspension of Luis Suárez for his gesture towards the Fulham fans in the aftermath of the defeat at Craven Cottage. Suárez admitted a charge of improper conduct, meaning the one match suspension was a formality, and without appeal comes into play immediately, ruling him out of Newcastle’s visit.
The Reds were, however, boosted in their last game by the return to action of captain Steven Gerrard. The midfielder managed twenty minutes as Liverpool searched for a win, and impressed amidst a sea of underwhelming performances. It is perhaps too early in his recovery for Gerrard to start on Friday night, but one can certainly expect another appearance from the bench.
Newcastle will arrive at Anfield without long-term injury absentee Steven Taylor, though with Fabricio Coloccini available they retain at least some talent at the heart of their defence. The Argentinian will likely be partnered by Mike Williamson, who had a torrid time at the hands of Suárez in this fixture last season, though he may be more suited to the physical style offered by Andy Carroll.
Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Henderson, Spearing, Adam, Downing; Bellamy, Carroll
Krul; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, R.Taylor; Obertan, Cabaye, Tiote, Gutierrez; Ben Arfa; Ba
“Our target is to build on the work that we’ve already done.
“As we keep saying there’s an awful lot of the work we have done that we’ve been very pleased with. There was a big turnaround of players since the start of the season and that includes Andy and Luis from last year.
“There’s a couple of younger ones like Jonjo and Jay that have stepped forward as well.
“We’ve brought a few players in as well so when you consider the progress they have made since August we are pretty pleased with it.
“We want to move on and everybody wants the reward for the fantastic play they have produced. We need to improve the goals for column so we’ll continue to pursue that goal and I’m sure next year they will be better for the experience they have had this year.
“I think we deserve to be higher up the table than we are but you’ve got to earn that right and not talk about it – but to be fair they have done a lot of talking on the pitch for us.
“As long as we are in there somewhere, continue to do the right things and give ourselves a chance then we’ll be happy with that.” Kenny Dalglish believes that his players will be better for their experiences this year.
“I don’t think there’s any evidence there to say he is short of self belief and I don’t see any evidence to see why he should be.
“For us he has come here and gone about his work very well. He is adjusting to life at a new club with new philosophies and a new way of playing.
“Football is the most important thing to him. That’s what he enjoys most. He’s got a happy home life and if the football is going well and it’s the same for everyone then the home life is going to be happier, but he loves playing football, he loves scoring goals and loves being part and parcel of the team. That’s the personality he is.
“He is adapting well to the change and we’ll keep working with him because fortunately for Andy we’ve got much greater belief in him that a lot of people have that write about him.” Dalglish rubbishes talk that Andy Carroll is lacking in self belief after another great save denied him a winner against Blackburn.
17 – In their 10 games this season against the sides currently occupying the bottom half of the table, Liverpool have taken just 17 points. They have been defeated by these sides only once (Fulham) but have suffered five draws (Norwich, Swansea, Sunderland, Wigan & Blackburn) which have halted their progress.
38 – Liverpool are currently scoring at an average of a goal per game in the Premier League, which would see them score 38 over the course of the season. Only Birmingham (37) scored fewer times than that in the league in 2010/11.
7 – Newcastle have not scored at Anfield since December 2004, a full seven years ago. The player who netted that goal (in a 3-1 win for the Reds) was Patrick Kluivert and Newcastle have visited Anfield five times since without scoring.
2 – Kenny Dalglish was in charge for 18 games of the 2010/11 Premier League campaign, collecting 33 points. In the opening 18 games of this season, his Liverpool side have collected 31 points, just 2 fewer.
With Liverpool’s anaemic attack – shorn even of Suárez for this game – and mean defence, it is difficult to see this one being the sort of entertaining fixture we are used to seeing between the two sides. Neither side are in good form, but both will want victory to end the year on a positive note. If I’m being honest, however, I can’t see past another frustrating afternoon for the Reds and yet more dropped points.
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