The Big Match Tactical View: Liverpool v Newcastle

Brendan Rodgers is likely to use Raheem Sterling in a wide role
Brendan Rodgers is likely to use Raheem Sterling in a wide role
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This fixture has produced some classic Premier League games - and while this unlikely to be another, it could be an interesting game. Michael Cox looks at the tactical battle, while professional trader Alan Thompson has the betting lowdown...

"Sturridge is likely to start here, with Sterling moving to the right flank. Coutinho will drift inside from the left, and on paper this is Liverpool's strongest attacking trident."

Liverpool v Newcastle
Monday 20:00, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Liverpool 1.434/9, Newcastle 9.417/2, The Draw 5.14/1.

Liverpool have lost their last two matches, but Brendan Rodgers insists his 3-4-3 formation isn't to blame, and should stick with that system for this Monday evening match.

The formation had previously caused opponents difficulties, with the wide players drifting inside dangerously into pockets of space between the lines and the wing-backs pushing forward, but in recent games the balance hasn't been quite right - not helped by the use of Raheem Sterling and then Jordan Henderson, arguably Liverpool's two key players, in a right-wing-back role neither likes.

Sterling was fielded upfront at Arsenal last weekend, with Daniel Sturridge not considered fit enough to start - and the latter was also withdrawn from the midweek FA Cup replay win at Blackburn. Still, Sturridge is likely to start here, with Sterling moving to the right flank. Coutinho will drift inside from the left, and on paper this is Liverpool's strongest attacking trident.

This is probably the game's key area, because Newcastle are weakened at the back. Right-back Daryl Janmaat will play his third consecutive game in the middle of defence, having never previously played there in his career.

In truth, it hasn't been disastrous - Newcastle have only conceded to two Olivier Giroud goals from set-pieces, and Jermain Defoe's wonderstrike - if there's a true weakness with Janmaat and Williamson at the back, it's probably in the air. Liverpool are unlikely to test them significantly in this respect, and even their best header from set-pieces, Martin Skrtel, is suspended.

Whereas Henderson was used on the right against Arsenal to battle against Alexis Sanchez, here he should be moved into the centre of the pitch, alongside Joe Allen, where Liverpool's stand-in captain can use his energy to press high up the pitch, and storm forward into goalscoring positions. This also allows Rodgers to become more attacking in the wing-back roles: Alberto Moreno should continue on the left, while Lazar Markovic, who wasted a golden opportunity at the Emirates last weekend but overall was very lively from the flank, might retreat into a wing-back role on the right.

Emre Can will return from suspension, with Kolo Toure and Dejan Lovren the only fit options alongside him. Newcastle must look to test this backline from the outset, and Ayoze Perez's speed might cause problems. The Spaniard has often fared well against good opposition, causing both Chelsea and Arsenal problems with his movement into the channels, and he could be a threat in behind.

John Carver is likely to field a pacey trio of Yoann Gouffran, Remy Cabella and Sami Ameobi just behind Perez. Newcastle are unlikely to dominate possession but should have plenty of opportunities to break quickly, particularly into the wide positions when Liverpool's wing-backs push forward. Gouffran is relatively disciplined with his tracking back, but Ameobi can switch off and Markovic could get joy down the right.

Moussa Sissoko and Vurnon Anita should protect the defence, and their main responsibility will be watching the movement of Coutinho inside. Sissoko likes to storm forward into attack, but here must play a more cautious role. Ryan Taylor and Jack Colback should continue at full-back, and have been tucking inside to protect the centre-backs keenly in the last couple of games. Colback, though, is the Premier League's most-booked player this season, and might struggle if overloaded.

With neither side in great form, and selection problems for both coaches, this won't be a classic. It's hard to look past a home win, though - Liverpool are slightly overpriced given Newcastle's recent struggles. The Magpies lost their last four matches, and I think they'll extend that unwanted record.

Recommended Bet
Back Liverpool at 1.434/9

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

The Magpies travel to Merseyside on Monday evening after the humiliation of losing their fifth consecutive game against local rivals Sunderland last week. Liverpool were also defeated last week and have now lost two in a row in the league, dropping them to sixth in the table, seven points behind fourth place Manchester City.

Newcastle United have picked up just nine points in 2015 (W2 : D3 : L7) the two wins coming against Aston Villa and Hull City and they have lost their last four league games, scoring only once! When the Magpies have travelled to the elite sides in the Premier League this season they have lost them all, Chelsea (2-0), Arsenal (4-1), Man Utd (3-1) and Man City (5-0) – conceding 14 goals and scoring two.

Liverpool were going well and looking on course for a top four finish, unbeaten in 13 league games until they lost two in a row, against Manchester United and then last week at Arsenal, leaving them now a 7.4 chance of reaching one of those coveted top four places.

Newcastle were pitiful last week against Sunderland managing just one shot on target and even that took 75 minutes to achieve. Liverpool, although they have lost the last two, will still believe that a top four finish is possible and will be looking for maximum points.

I can’t see anything other than comprehensive Liverpool victory, I will be splitting my stake and having half on Liverpool -1.0 & -1.5 in the Asian Handicap @ 2.0 and the other half on Liverpool to win to nil where I would be looking for anything around 2.4.

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