The teams are out! A lovely sunny September day at Anfield, and an atmosphere to match. The players clasp hands and bump fists. We’ll be off in a minute, just after the showtunes.
Jurgen Klopp speaks to BT Sport. “We have to rotate. Bobby is ready, Hendo is ready, but we have to think about the bigger picture. We could have made more changes, but then again we need to think about the rhythm as well, and we respect Newcastle too much to think about rotating and rotating. Newcastle were impressive against Tottenham, they were physically strong with a clear plan, and we need to have solutions for that.”
A view inside the changing room. This is the home team’s inner sanctum. It’s a bit busy, isn’t it? Sensory overload. It’s on-brand, if nothing else. But this picture does allow us to exclusively reveal that Liverpool will be playing today in red shirts. Newcastle, sources close to the club have intimated, will wear black and white.
Liverpool make two changes from the Burnley game a fortnight ago. Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson are encouraged to rest on the bench, recovering from their recent efforts for Brazil and England. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his 50th appearance for the club, and Divock Origi step up.
Newcastle make just one change from their last game against Watford. Jonjo Shelvey returns to Anfield, replacing the injured Sean Longstaff.
Liverpool: Adrian, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mane, Origi.
Subs: Milner, Firmino, Gomez, Henderson, Lallana, Shaqiri, Kelleher.
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems, Atsu, Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Joelinton.
Subs: Clark, Ki, Muto, Fernandez, Manquillo, Darlow, Matthew Longstaff.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
This is one of the signature Premier League fixtures, its status the result of that game 23 years ago. A classic’s a classic’s a classic. Not that folk from the north-east will necessarily see it that way; one fan’s signature fixture is another’s annual ordeal. And since the heady April 1996 evening when Stan Collymore sent Kevin Keegan slumping over the hoardings in despair, Newcastle United have taken many other painful beatings at Anfield: another 4-3, one 4-2, five 3-0s and a 4-0 last Christmas. Oh Stan, what did you start.
There’s also the small matter of Liverpool’s club-record 13-match winning run in the Premier League. With Mo Salah and Sadio Mane fully rested during international fortnight, they’re extremely short-priced favourites to win this lunchtime. Newcastle are a healthy 16-1 shot, which looks generous enough until you consider they’ve not won in the league at Anfield for a quarter of a century.
But this is football, right here, and nothing’s ever certain. Liverpool may have done the double over Newcastle last season, but the Toon gave them a real match at St James’ Park in May. They’ve already pulled off one of the shocks of the early season by winning at Spurs. And Steve Bruce has a decent managerial record against Liverpool, with a win ratio of one in four, not bad going considering he’s always cast in the role of David to the red Goliath.
So while Liverpool will be hoping to make it five out of five in the league this season, they can take nothing for granted. Especially as their previously parsimonious defence has been serving up a few chances this season: just the one clean sheet so far. Can Newcastle spring another shock? Or will Liverpool consolidate their position at the top of the table? We’ll soon find out. The Premier League’s back. It’s on!
Kick off: 12.30pm BST.