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Where Newcastle “have to play well” vs. Liverpool after dealt brutal “reality check”

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Liverpool begin 2024 with a home clash with Newcastle, with Magpies supporters bemoaning serious injury problems and a big “reality check” this season.

The Reds won 2-0 away to Burnley on Boxing Day, taking them top of the Premier League at the time, and they have enjoyed a nice rest after a gruelling run of fixtures.

Next up is a New Year’s Day meeting with Newcastle at Anfield, with Eddie Howe’s side falling way below what was expected of them last summer.

There have been reasons for that, however, with injuries a constant problem and Champions League football an added distraction.

The Magpies remain a strong side on their day, though, and Liverpool will have to play well to avoid three Premier League home games in succession without a win.

Ahead of the game, Henry Jackson spoke to regular TIA opposition fan contributor Dave Black (@cm9798) to discuss Newcastle‘s numerous woes, the Reds’ chances of title glory and much more.

 

How tough has Newcastle’s season been after last year’s brilliance?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Liverpool's Joe Gomez (L) is challenged by Newcastle United's Callum Wilson during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It has been a bit of a reality check. It was always going to be difficult to match last season with our added European commitments, and I’m not really that upset to be sitting eighth.

A lot has been made of us “crashing out of Europe,” but the draw we got was very harsh and to come within half an hour of qualifying is a hard luck story.

I’m immensely proud of how we competed, and if that awful penalty hadn’t been given against us in Paris, who knows. Ultimately, though, playing twice a week has caught up with us.

I hate blaming injuries as every club has them, but at one stage, we managed a bench of three goalkeepers, Paul Dummett, Matt Ritchie and four untried academy lads.

It simply can’t be sustained the way Eddie Howe sets up, and we’ve seen teams like Tottenham and Bournemouth come at us with a real intensity.

We just haven’t had the legs to match them, which isn’t like us.

Add in that we managed to get Man City, Man United and Chelsea in the League Cup and it’s been really quite frustrating. There’s been no let up all season.

To be fair, Howe has never once used it as an excuse, but some of our lads are clearly playing with knocks, where in other circumstances they would be resting.

 

What have been the main reasons for Newcastle’s struggles?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Newcastle United's manager Eddie Howe and assistant Jason Tindall during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As described really – a squad being pushed to the limit in every sense.

What has to be remembered is that Howe took most of this squad from relegation scrappers to the top four, with a few additions, admittedly.

With less preparation time between games, some of those players have been left to look more like their old selves, which is not a compliment.

To call it a struggle is probably making us a victim of our own success, though.

This squad is nowhere near the fourth-best in the Premier League, especially when you factor in the two big signings have barely featured due to injury (Harvey Barnes) and a long suspension (Sandro Tonali).

In spite of all that, our home form has been very good, but our away record is atrocious, which is obviously a concern going somewhere like Anfield.

 

Which players have shone or flopped the most this season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 27, 2023: Newcastle United's captain Kieran Trippier during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Newcastle United FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by Jessica Hornby/Propaganda)

We have really missed Sven Botman, but he is back now, thankfully.

We are also really missing Nick Pope in goal, with Martin Dubravka looking either out of practice or genuinely uncomfortable in the games he has come in for.

Kieran Trippier’s form is also absurd at present, having more or less directly cost us five goals in December. He’s been so good for us, though, so he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Bruno Guimaraes is still phenomenal and holding things together for us, while Tino Livramento has been a revelation after having to come in and play left-back.

Meanwhile, Anthony Gordon has been our best attacking player all season, though like most, his best work has come at home.

 

Is a top-four finish still possible for Newcastle?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 19, 2023: Newcastle United's Bruno Guimarães during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Newcastle United FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. Man City won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is possible but unlikely. I think our best hope is that fifth is a qualifying spot in the new (and terrible) expanded Champions League.

I suppose one positive is the likes of Barnes and Joe Willock should be fresh once they recover from injury, and could have a strong end to the campaign.

There’s no Europe, so I think the small break after January 13 will be used as a bit of a line in the sand for our season.

Hopefully, we can go full tilt to the finish.

 

What’s one thing you would change at the club?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 26, 2020: A general view of St. James' Park before the final match of the FA Premier League season between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propagandab)

Luck? I mentioned the cup draws and injuries earlier, but we’ve not touched on the game after Liverpool being a derby with Sunderland in the FA Cup.

I do worry some of our lads, particularly the local ones, will have one eye on that.

 

How do you assess Liverpool’s title chances?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the first equalising goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

You have as good a chance as anyone – without really hitting top gear, you are right in the mix.

The period Mohamed Salah misses due to the Africa Cup of Nations might be critical, but if you can navigate that unscathed then it will be interesting to see how the table looks.

 

As for New Year’s Day, where will the key battles take place?

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 26, 2023: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez (R) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s all about trying to quieten the Anfield atmosphere.

Man United did that quite well without playing particularly good football, but the parallels between our fanbases are clear to see.

We will have to sit in and bide our time, which we haven’t done well at all away from home this year.

Darwin Nunez gave us a tough time in the reverse fixture and our centre-backs will have to play well if we are to get anything.

 

Finally, give us your prediction…

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 26, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

When you have won one in nine away games, it is hard to see an upturn in form at Anfield.

For that reason, I will go for a home win, probably to nil.