Newcastle have made a solid start in their return to the Premier League and will be aiming for a third consecutive home victory when they host Liverpool at St James’ Park on Sunday (16:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Rafael Benitez led Newcastle back into the top flight at the first attempt by winning the Championship last season and the former Liverpool coach has now overseen the accumulation of nine points from the club’s first six matches of the new campaign.
Reports suggested that Benitez was unhappy with the backing he received from owner Mike Ashley in the summer transfer market. He has nevertheless been able to fashion a side who look solidly placed to maintain their Premier League status at the very least.
The fixture list handed Newcastle a relatively easy start to the season, so it is too early to draw clear conclusions, but they have so far appeared solid defensively and in possession of a sufficiently threatening attack to secure victories. Mikel Merino has proved an astute pickup in the centre of midfield, while the attacking midfield line of Christian Atsu, Ayoze Perez and Matt Ritchie has enough quality in it to create a good number of chances.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Liverpool are regularly getting into good positions without taking full advantage[/quote]
Benitez is always well prepared and will understand the importance of his side getting points on the board early on so that confidence doesn’t drop too badly if they struggle during their tougher December schedule. Indeed, he was disappointed to see his side come away pointless from a 0-1 defeat away to Brighton last weekend in a match he felt they controlled.
The way in which Benitez controls space is very different to the manner in which Jurgen Klopp, his opposite number this weekend, seeks to do so. While Newcastle adopt a relatively deep defensive line and aim to limit space between the lines, Liverpool position themselves high up the pitch and press relentlessly to regain possession and transition quickly to attack.
It is an approach that can be thrilling to watch but leaves them open to disappointment if their finishing is not on point, as it wasn’t in their trip to Russia to take on Spartak Moscow in midweek. Liverpool dominated the shot count and created enough good-quality chances to comfortably take all three points, but they had to settle for a draw after Philippe Coutinho equalised a spectacular free-kick opener from their hosts.
Klopp afterwards described it as “crazy” that his side had fashioned so many chances without scoring more than once, as the wastefulness of their forward line again proved their undoing. Liverpool are regularly getting into good positions without taking full advantage, but Klopp otherwise seemed keen to emphasise the encouraging aspects of his side’s display.
One of main positives was the performance of Coutinho, who picked out some nice passes into the forwards and looked sharp throughout. The Brazilian was disappointed not to get the opportunity to move to Barcelona towards the end of the transfer window but if Tuesday was anything to go by, it looks as if he will be professional enough to get on with it.
The primary negative was another goal conceded, the 19th in all competitions this season. Liverpool have let in two or more goals in six of their 11 matches and have kept just two clean sheets. Their defensive problems certainly become far more evident if chances are not converted at the other end of the pitch, and a certain trade-off is to be expected given Klopp’s approach, but it currently feels like the balance just isn’t quite right.
In that context, a fixture against a coach who plans as meticulously as Benitez isn’t exactly ideal. Especially as the Newcastle boss has had all week to fine-tune his plans, while Liverpool come into the match on the back of a midweek Champions League engagement.
Newcastle are in good form on home soil and if things goes their way, they are capable of securing at least a point on Sunday.
Our Preview’s Newcastle v Liverpool Betting Tips
Having sifted through the odds from our top rated UK online bookmakers, this preview’s betting tips for this Premier League match are:
- Back Newcastle +0.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 39/29 (a touch under 11/8) with BetVictor.
- Bet on both teams to score @ best odds of 8/11 with Betfred.
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