The Big Match Tactical View: Liverpool v Newcastle

Brendan Rodgers will be keen to finish the season with a win
Brendan Rodgers will be keen to finish the season with a win
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The Premier League title is no longer in Liverpool's hands - but they'll still be keen to record a confident victory over Newcastle to round off an extraordinary season. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action at Anfield.

"Liverpool tend to play well until half-time, before fading."

Back ‘Any Unquoted’ in ‘Half-Time Score’ at 6.411/2

Liverpool v Newcastle
Sunday 3:00, Sky Sports 2.
Match Odds: Liverpool 1.251/4, Newcastle 14.013/1, The Draw 8.07/1.

This was set to be the afternoon where Liverpool finally broke their Premier League title duck - but the Reds are now depending on Manchester City losing to West Ham to give them a chance of lifting the trophy for the first time.

Nevertheless, Liverpool can't worry about events elsewhere - they know it's highly unlikely West Ham will do them a favour, but it would be unforgivable if Liverpool missed out by failing to defeat a shambolic Newcastle United side here. They must give 100%, and hope for the best.

Brendan Rodgers is boosted by the return of Jordan Henderson after a three-match ban. He's been sorely missed over the past three weeks, and will bring energy and tenacity to midfield, as well as providing late runs into the box to get into goalscoring positions, something Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva aren't capable of doing effectively. Those two might be benched, with Coutinho possibly returning. Otherwise, it will be Liverpool's first-choice XI.

Newcastle have been playing for nothing since Christmas - which has become increasingly evident in their performances. From their last 19 matches, the Magpies have lost 13 - 12 of those without scoring.

Still, Alan Pardew's side won 3-0 against Cardiff last time out, and he's likely to stick with an unchanged side - Shola Ameobi leading the line with support from Loic Remy, Yoann Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko just behind. Vurnon Anita and Cheick Tiote will battle in the holding roles.

The major question, in truth, is about how interested Newcastle are. Some of their performances in the second half of the campaign have been disgracefully poor, although Pardew has been keen to stress that the rest of the league will be looking to Newcastle to put up a fight in a potentially crucial match. The key is probably the first goal - if Newcastle can delay Liverpool opening the scoring, they'll continue to fight. If they go behind early, the floodgates could open.

At one point there was a possibility Liverpool could be tasked with winning this match 10-0 to win the league on goal difference, but the slip-up against Crystal Palace and Manchester City's 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa means this is even less likely. Even if City draw against West Ham, Liverpool would need a victory by 13 clear goals to win the title on goal difference.

Rodgers' major decision is about whether to use the 4-3-3 or his midfield diamond. Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will be the front trio, but in what format? The former system probably makes more sense, with Newcastle defending quite narrow and protecting their back four well, Sterling might find it tough to get space between the lines. Out wide, his pace can be more useful.

Newcastle's major threat is the pace of Remy, who was sorely missed throughout his injury absence. He could start as a second striker but might be preferred on the left flank, where Glen Johnson might be tempted forward past him, and leave space to break into. When on form, and fully fit, Remy remains one of the division's most calm finishers.

Overall, it's tough to see anything but a Liverpool victory. Newcastle's habit of losing 'to nil' is impossible to ignore, as is the fact Liverpool have scored at least twice in 12 of their last 13 games - that fatal defeat to Chelsea is the only exception. 'Any unquoted' is the favourite in the 'Correct Score' market - which covers either side going above three goals.

I'll play it slightly differently, and back 'Any unquoted' in the half-time correct score market at 6.411/2, which covers either side scoring more than two goals by half-time. Liverpool might be demoralised but they'll want to put on a show, an early goal could prompt a thrashing - and Rodgers' side tend to play well until half-time before fading.

Recommended Bet
Back 'Any Unquoted' in 'Half-Time Score' at 6.411/2

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Liverpool have scored 99 goals this season, if they get one more on Sunday they will become only the third club (Man City 2014, Chelsea 2010) in Premier Leagues history to score 100 goals in a season and on Sunday either them or City the only one not to win the league when doing so!

Certainly Liverpool have no problem going forward but once they hit the top of the league at the end of March, in their next five games they conceded in each game, 10 goals in total from three wins (West Ham 2-1, Man City 3-2, Norwich 3-2) an away draw (Palace 3-3) and a home defeat (Chelsea 2-0). They have conceded goals all season but in the last five games they conceded on average 2 per game against their season average of 1.32.

Fortunately for Liverpool this final weekend they face a Newcastle United side who have been nothing short of desperate in 2014. Newcastle have picked up only 16 points from the 54 available since the turn of the year and have failed to score in 12 of their last 18 Premier League starts including blanks in their last four away defeats.

Whenever these two meet at Anfield people will recall the two seven-goal thrillers that ended 4-3 in consecutive seasons (96 & 97). While I am sure there will be goals again in this one, I suspect they could all be one way. Three of the last five meetings here have finished 3-0 and that sounds about right to me at odds of 10. However, I will also have a saver on Any Unquoted should Liverpool decide they want more.

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