Liverpool will look to finish their 2019/20 Premier League on a positive note as they travel to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle United on Sunday.
Despite having no fans in the stadium, Liverpool celebrated their first Premier League title in grand fashion in midweek – one that was made even more special thanks to an entertaining 5-3 victory over rivals Chelsea. However, their form since Project Restart has been far from perfect.
And with that in mind, they will look to finish their 2019/20 campaign on a positive note when they lock horns with Newcastle United in the final Premier League gameweek on Sunday.
Although the Reds cannot reach the 100 point milestone, they are still chasing a few club records, including the tally of 32 league wins in a single season. They can also beat Manchester City’s record of winning the league title by 19 points during the 2017/18 campaign, although for that to happen, the Sky Blues must lose against bottom club Norwich City.
As for Newcastle United, it is a dead-rubber fixture for them as well. Their manager Steve Bruce has done a brilliant job after replacing Rafael Benitez last summer and has secured a mid-table finish. The Magpies are currently sitting 13th in the league table and cannot advance further as they are trailing Southampton by five points.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both the sides ahead of this intriguing encounter as the 2019/20 edition of the Premier League comes to an end this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Bruce is facing a number of injury worries in the defensive department with players like Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar, Paul Dummett and Florian Lejeune all unlikely to be unavailable on Sunday.
Even Emil Krafth is a doubt heading into this game, meaning Newcastle United might be forced to play holding midfielder Isaac Hayden alongside Danny Rose and Federico Fernandez in the three-man backline.
Hayden shifting to a central defensive role should pave the way for Nabil Bentaleb to start alongside Jonjo Shelvey and Miguel Almiron in central midfield.
The Algerian will be in charge of doing the dirty work in the middle of the park while both Shelvey and Almiron will look to provide the creative essence in the final third.
Bruce does have options in the wingback roles, but we do expect Javier Manquillo to retain his role on the right-hand side, ahead of DeAndre Yedlin while Matt Ritchie is also a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. Christian Atsu is a potential alternative.
And finally, in the attack, Dwight Gayle should once again get the nod ahead of Joelinton in the number nine role, just ahead of star player Allan Saint-Maximin. Bruce has often used Valentino Lazard as a trump card and we could expect a similar tactic this time around.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-1): Dubravka; Hayden, Fernandez, Rose; Manquillo, Bentaleb, Shelvey, Almiron, Ritchie; Saint-Maximin, Gayle.
It could be a game where Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp makes a few changes to his squad following a tumultuous restart period that saw them play two games a week on a consistent basis.
Trent Alexander-Arnold starred for Liverpool in the win over Chelsea, covering the entire right flank. The English international is likely to be given a breather in this one, thus paving the way for Neco Williams to start instead. Meanwhile, Andrew Robertson is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.
Dejan Lovren has been linked with a move away from Anfield and the Croatian, therefore, could potentially make an appealing. But, only as a substitute, meaning Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk are still favourites to occupy the central defensive roles despite below-par performances in recent games. Alisson is also a guaranteed starter in goal.
In midfield, Naby Keita should be rewarded for his performances with yet another start while Georginio Wijnaldum could make way for the young Curtis Jones. They will start just ahead of Fabinho in the holding midfield role, with James Milner and Adam Lallana, who will leave the club this summer, potential options from the bench.
Roberto Firmino scored his first Anfield goal in 13 matches in midweek and is tipped for another start, alongside his usual partners in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. However, Klopp could the substitute rule to provide additional game-time to fringe players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Williams, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Fabinho, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- Newcastle United have lost 76 top-flight fixtures against Liverpool, four more than they have against any other opponent.
- Newcastle United are unbeaten on the two occasions they have played the Premier League champions on the final day of the season – drawing with and beating Chelsea in 2004-05 and 2005-06 respectively.
- Victory would give the Reds a club record 99 points for the season, overtaking the 98 they earned in 1978-79 once adjusted to three points for a win.
- A newly-crowned Premier League champion has not lost their final league match in a title-winning campaign since Manchester United were beaten by West Ham in 2006-07.
- Newcastle have won their final league match in each of the past five seasons by an aggregate score of 17-1. Their last defeat on the final day was against Liverpool in 2013-14.
Player to Watch
Amid mixed form since the restart period, Keita has been one of the few brights spots for Liverpool. The Guinean international has stepped to the plate whenever he was required, showing excellent technical qualities, speed and dribbling prowess – traits that were synonymous during his successful spell at RB Leipzig.
Even in the last game against Chelsea, Keita was one of Liverpool’s best performers in midfield. And as the Reds look to strengthen their squad this summer, there is no doubt they will be looking for a new midfielder. In fact, they have already been linked with a move for Thiago Alcantara.
Therefore, it could be imperative for Keita to showcase his true potential and ending their campaign on a positive note as he looks to remain in the team next season. As for Newcastle, his dynamism in the middle of the park could nullify the influence of players like Shelvey and Almiron, forcing them to do their defensive duties instead.
Newcastle United 0-1 Liverpool
Liverpool are unlikely to get as much attacking freedom as they did against Chelsea in midweek. In fact, the Reds could find it difficult to break shackles of an organised Newcastle backline despite their fair share of injuries in the defensive department. However, we do expect a narrow 1-0 win for the away side due to the quality of their players, who are more than capable of churning all three points in this fixture.