Steve McClaren will see his position as Newcastle head coach come under further scrutiny if his side fail to secure at least a point from the visit of Liverpool on Sunday (16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
McClaren was very disappointed with his side’s showing in their humiliating 5-1 defeat away to Crystal Palace last weekend, criticising both their performance and their lack of character in the aftermath of the result. After hauling his charges in for an extra training session on the day after the match, he will hope for a strong reaction this weekend.
Newcastle are certainly in need of a positive result following a difficult first few months of the campaign that have left them placed second from the bottom in the Premier League table, with just 10 points to their name. While McClaren will feel that he deserves time to turn the situation around, he is unlikely to get it unless results and performances swiftly improve.
The defeat to Palace was the 10th time in 14 matches so far this season that Newcastle had conceded two or more goals, and further illustrated the scale of their defensive problems. No side in the Premier League has conceded more than the 30 goals Newcastle have shipped to date, and a failure to stem that flow will make survival an incredibly difficult task.
Things are little better for the Magpies at the other end of the pitch. There have been flashes of promise from the likes of Ayoze Perez and summer signing Aleksandar Mitrovic, while Georginio Wiljnaldum’s four-goal salvo in the win over Norwich provided evidence of his ability to get forward from midfield and contribute in the final third. Yet Newcastle are still creating an insufficient number of chances to counteract their clear defensive frailties.
Sunday’s match will not be the first time McClaren has found his job potentially on the line prior to a clash with a side coached by Jurgen Klopp (pictured), his opposite number this weekend. Back in 2011, it was a defeat to Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund side that saw McClaren relieved of his position at Wolfsburg, and he will hope to avoid a present-day repeat of that scenario.
Klopp will, however, be confident of replicating that success on Sunday given that his Liverpool side come into the match on the back of seven victories in their last eight matches in all competitions. Wednesday’s sterling 6-1 win away to Southampton in their Capital One Cup quarter-final provided further evidence of the effect he has had since taking charge.
When Klopp replaced the sacked Brendan Rodgers in mid-October, Liverpool had won just three of their first 11 matches in all competitions. Seven wins, three draws and one defeat since have moved the Reds back into contention for a top-four finish and seen them progress to both the last 32 of the Europa League and the final four of the Capital One Cup.
This turnaround can at least partially be attributed to the vagaries of luck. After all, Liverpool both scored less and conceded more than could reasonably have been expected given the positions from which they took and conceded shots under Rodgers, and have over-performed at both ends of the pitch since his departure. However there is also a clear sense that Klopp’s high-energy approach is drawing better performances from the Liverpool squad.
After a run of difficult matches in which his side were nevertheless able to secure seven points from trips to Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester City, the German coach can now look forward to an easier run of fixtures in the build-up to Christmas.
Liverpool will certainly view this weekend’s match as a great opportunity to close their current four-point deficit to the top four. Newcastle are low on confidence, have major problems at both ends of the pitch and will be playing in front of a frustrated St James’ Park crowd who have already witnessed three home defeats so far this season. With the form guide on their side, Liverpool can be expected to take all three points on Sunday.