Two of the Premier League’s in-form sides kick off the next round of fixtures on Saturday lunchtime, as Newcastle United play host to Liverpool at St James’ Park.
The Magpies put three unanswered goals past Norwich City last time out, while Jurgen Klopp’s side defeated Villarreal 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
A combination of effective January spending and the hard work of Eddie Howe and his coaching staff have transformed Newcastle from relegation contenders into top-half hopefuls for the final few weeks of the season, and optimism could not be higher among the Magpies fanbase at present.
Newcastle’s brilliant Brazilians were in full flow at Carrow Road in a 3-0 triumph for Howe’s side last weekend, as Joelinton bagged a brace before new boy Bruno Guimaraes kept up his hot goalscoring streak with a delightful chip early in the second half.
A four-game winning streak is just what the doctor ordered for Newcastle before a meeting with the quadruple-chasing Reds, and the Magpies have now risen to ninth in the rankings with four games left to play. Incredibly, a top-seven finish and spot in European competition is not mathematically impossible for the North East club either.
Newcastle’s quartet of victories has also seen them concede just one goal in the process, although such resilience will be tested to the maximum against Liverpool, and Howe has also overseen a run of six consecutive Premier League victories at St James’ Park.
Not since before Christmas have the Magpies suffered a top-flight defeat in front of the home crowd, but Liverpool have recent experience when it comes to defeating previously stern opposition ahead of a game that they reportedly asked the Premier League to reschedule amid the tight turnaround.
Jurgen Klopp in charge of Liverpool in April 2022© Reuters
Despite humbling Juventus on their own turf and getting the better of Bayern Munich over two legs, gleaning a positive result at the Anfield fortress was a step too far for Unai Emery and Villarreal, as Liverpool huffed and puffed and eventually knocked down the yellow brick wall.
It took a slice of fortune for Jurgen Klopp’s side to make the second-half breakthrough as Jordan Henderson’s cross deflected off Pervis Estupinan into the back of the net, and Sadio Mane would poke home to hand Liverpool a healthy advantage before next week’s second leg.
Emery has insisted that Liverpool will “suffer” in Spain next week – a stark warning for Klopp, whose frustrations surrounding the fixture schedule should not be hidden – but the hectic Easter period has seen the Reds pick up six wins from eight in April so far.
A 2-0 Merseyside derby success over Everton kept the gap at the top to Manchester City to just one point, meaning that Liverpool would temporarily rise to the summit with just a draw owing to their better goal difference before the reigning champions meet Leeds United a few hours later.
Klopp is faced with a selection dilemma in the final third every week, and Liverpool’s eight games this month have seen them notch up at least two goals on each occasion, and no side has managed to hand the Reds their first away loss of 2022 in any competition yet.
Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners the last time Newcastle paid a visit to Anfield on December 16 – a result which stretched the Reds’ unbeaten run against their upcoming hosts to 10 league games since going down 2-0 to the Magpies in the 2015-16 campaign, with familiar face Georginio Wijnaldum on the scoresheet at St James’ Park that day.