(photo: Pip Bonworth)
By Luke Armstrong
Newcastle host Liverpool on Saturday afternoon at St.James’ Park in a decisive game between the two most in form sides in the league that will help to decide the destination of the Premier League title.
The city centre arena will present a great atmosphere on match day, with the clubs’ current feel good factor along with the history of the Liverpool clash combining to create what will be an electric afternoon on Tyneside
The home side come into the game on a scintillating run of form, having won four on the bounce which leaves the Magpies in the surprising lofty position of ninth. Eddie Howe’s men have only conceded one goal in their last four games – a stark turn from their early season defensive woes.
In their last encounter the Toon army were in fine form at Carrow Road, serenading their team as they saw off Norwich 3-0 thanks to goals from Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes.
The new signing from Lyon has really settled in now and is producing the kind of performances that were expected of him when he arrived from Ligue 1. The silky Brazilian has scored three and assisted one in his last three games, including a brace against Leicester which saw the midfielder snatch a 95th minute winner at the Gallowgate end.
Liverpool are racking up the wins as well as they hang on to the coattails of Manchester City. The Reds have taken 37 points from their last available 39 to put themselves just a single point behind the reigning champions, with a historic quadruple still very much a possibility. Jurgen Klopp’s side have secured a place in the FA Cup final as well as having one foot in the Champions League final after dispatching Villarreal in midweek.
Mohamed Salah carried Liverpool in the goals department early on the season but now contributions are coming from all throughout the attack, with new signing Luis Diaz impressing since his arrival from Porto. Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane have also both featured heavily in recent goal stats.
There are no new injury concerns for the home side. Kieran Trippier still remains a couple of weeks from a return, while Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser are also getting closer but may not be risked for the rest of the season.
Liverpool’s only concern is Roberto Firmino who is a doubt with a foot injury – a huge contrast from the situation the team was in last season.
A win would move Newcastle onto 46 points, their highest return since gaining promotion to the Premier League after being relegated in 2016. They could open up a six-point gap on Brighton in 11th as the magpies hunt down a top half finish. A victory for the away side would see them climb above Man City by two points, however the blues would have the chance to respond when they face Leeds a day later.