On the injury front, Brendan Rodgers confirmed on Thursday that Jose Enrique is injured yet again. Sakho, Sturridge, Suso, and Flanagan also remain on the club's injury list.
As I see it, Rodgers has four important decision to make:
* Start Borini? - The Italian grabbed an assist against Swansea, and had an okay game overall, but did he do enough to warrant a start against Newcastle? Probably, but I can't see it happening. Sterling and Gerrard will come back into the team, and the two players most likely to make way are Lucas and Borini. If LFC play a 442 diamond, then Borini has an outside chance of starting, but even then, Rodgers will probably go with Sterling/Baloteli.
It's all moot, though - on Thursday, Rodgers hailed Borini's Swansea performance as 'outstanding', and whenever he heaps praise on someone during a press conference, that player invariably ends up on the bench for the next game. In recent weeks, both Coutinho and Sterling have fallen foul of the Rodgers kiss of death.
* Toure vs. Skrtel - Toure had a solid game against Swansea, and he's more than capable of doing a job against Newcastle. However, in my view, Skrtel has to come back into the team, as he and Lovren as LFC's first-choice defensive partnership. As such, they need to play together as much as possible in order to build up an understanding, and that can't happen if the defence keeps chopping and changing.
* 4231 vs. 442 - LFC fans are crying out for Liverpool to play two up-front, but Rodgers keeps persisting with 4231. It's maddening, but after the Swansea victory, he'll almost certainly stick with it for the Newcastle game, despite the fact that it's not getting the best out of Mario Balotelli.
The Swansea game will also paper over the cracks of the 4231 formation. In Rodgers' eyes, Liverpool won the game, and Balotelli scored, ergo it's working, but in the league, 4231 is a dismal failure so far, and it will be again if it's utilised against Newcastle.
* Allen vs. Can - Emre Can started ahead of Jordan Henderson in last week's 0-0 draw with Hull, but Hendo will inevitably return for the next game, which leaves one space left in midfield. In my view, Allen should get the nod; I still can't see what Can brings to the team, and (for the most part), the same applies to Allen...but the Welsh midfielder's pressing ability will come in handy against Newcastle.
Taking everything into consideration, I'd like to see the following formation for Newcastle:
Manquillo ----- Skrtel ---- Lovren ----- Moreno
-------------- Gerrard ---- Hendo
-------------- Sterling -- Balotelli
I doubt Rodgers will go with this, and I have a feeling that Coutinho may well be 'rested' after playing midweek, so I expect to see the following:
Johnson -------- Skrtel --- Lovren ----- Moreno
--------------- Gerrard -- Allen
------- Hendo ----- Sterling --- Lallana
Jordan Rossiter has trained with the first-team this week, so maybe he'll get a place on the bench. Rodgers may even spring a huge surprise and start the 'wonderful' youngster, but it seems unlikely.
Predicting a 1-1 draw, Reds legend Mark Lawrenson insisted that the whole team 'has to play better' to beat Newcastle. He told the BBC:
"Liverpool have had their own problems, which are not over despite the Reds getting out of jail with that late turnaround to beat Swansea in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday".
Sorry, but I have a bad feeling about this game. Newcastle are in the midst of three-game winning run; they're at home, and confidence will be sky high...
My prediction: 3-1 to Newcastle.
Author: Jaimie K