Rafa Benitez is a name still adored by Kopites. Long will Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League triumph live in fans’ memories. His steely side boasted legends like Gerrard, Alonso and Hyypiä. These days the Spaniard is plying his trade in Newcastle and the English are singing his name yet again.
Liverpool will arrive at the St. James’ Park in indifferent form, while Newcastle have had a solid opening to the season. Jamaal Lascelles has been in fine form, scoring two match winning goals in three games to bring Newcastle’s win tally to three.
The Reds returned from Russia disappointed, but not disheartened. The football played in Moscow was equally scintillating as it was wasteful, but there were many positives on display.
Defense vs Attack
Benitez style has always been one of a more measured approach. His Liverpool sides of old loved their clean-sheets and this Newcastle side is no different. But, with Mike Ashley not backing Rafa in the window — the personnel he’s had to field aren’t quite up to the standard required. What has emerged is a team who can defend as a unit, but struggle to get forward with any regularity.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool is the complete antithesis of this. ‘Heavy Metal Football’ has been on offer at Anfield for almost two years now and shows no signs of abating. It is looking like a season where three goals will be required away from home and this weekend would provide a great opportunity to get some momentum going. Against Spartak, Liverpool dominated possession, but couldn’t take their chances even with Coutinho, Mane, Firmino and Salah on the pitch. The attacking quartet will need to find some rhythm before they can kick on. Tyneside would be a perfect occasion to get on the front foot and get some wind back in the Reds’ creative sails.
Key Figures to Return
Liverpool have been without key men, Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana since the start of the season. Their return should be relatively soon and having them in the squad will be a huge boost to the team. While Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez have proved adequate replacements, the right-back berth should be returned to the former Southampton man. His dependability has been missed, as has Lallana’s energy and enthusiasm.
Liverpool looked so good in preseason. The goals were flowing, key men were staying and lots of positive names were being linked with a switch to Merseyside. The start of the season brought that nice image crashing down. But now that things have settled and the league table is taking shape, Liverpool need to get their feet firmly back on the ground.
A solid win away from home would be the best way to head into the international break. It would also be a subtle reminder that while Rafa Benitez brought glory to Merseyside, the club have moved on both stylistically and philosophically.
When the Premier League returns, Manchester United will be visiting Anfield. A win there could be the springboard this squad needs to put their rocky start behind them.