“Evening Rob,” says Richard Preston. “Something that always goes under the radar with that Suarez goal is how good the assist from Jose Enrique was. Probably the best thing he did in a Liverpool shirt (admittedly that’s a low bar), and no one knows he even did it.”
Ha, that’s a good point. We should do the Joy of Six: Forgotten Assists.
On reflection, I’m annoyed I didn’t include Suarez v Newcastle in this piece. Maybe it was too fresh in the memory. Shame, as I could have stroked my chin quite beautifully whilst pontificating about it.
“Supporting Liverpool these last few years has involved some tremendous fun,” says Matt Dony. “ There have been astonishing performances, and some unbelievable football leading to fantastic goals. Beauty and bludgeon in equal measure. But, I’m not sure anything has quite matched the insouciant genius of Suarez’s goal against Newcastle.
“I’ve seen many more ‘spectacular’ goals, but nothing that matches that particular combination of unworldly skill, arrogant execution and general air of ‘Try what you want, you can’t stop me’ that Suarez exuded at his best. There have been a number of classic encounters between these two teams (including THAT match, obviously), but these days my thoughts drift immediately to 2012, and a handful of touches that seemed to defy physics.”
This. I love unique goals, and that’s one of the greats. It’s an astounding goal. Never mind the actual touches; the speed of thought alone is beyond comprehension.
“Season’s greetings Rob!” says Martin McCarthy. “There seems to be a fair bit of confidence among Guardian writers that Liverpool are title favourites but with van Dijk and Gomez out for the long term and Matip unable to remain uninjured for long, it feels that defensively A LOT is riding on Fabinho staying healthy for the remainder of the season. Perhaps I’m allowing my natural pessimism to get the better of me though…”
Do you think they’ll buy in January? It’s tricky because if they buy a top-class centre back, what happens to Gomez (and even Fabinho) next season? The best thing might be to loan a solid, experienced centre-back, though nobody comes to mind.
“Hi Rob,” says David Wall. “At what point can you say that there is a genuine contest for the title? Almost half of the season has been played and there are six points between the top nine teams (yes, Liverpool can go five points clear this evening but they’ll have then played a game more than most other sides).
“I saw that Solskjaer was trying to play down the idea yesterday, suggesting you couldn’t really say there was a proper contest until about 30 games had been played). But last year the title was almost decided by this point. And considering that no side has shown any likelihood of achieving the kind of consistency Liverpool had last year then you’d expect it to stay pretty close from here, wouldn’t you? Or is it really too soon to tell, especially with there being so much uncertainty about fixture scheduling, the effects of infection on players, potential breaks in any football at all, and so on?”
This reminds me a few of the seasons in the 1990s (and 2001-02, the great forgotten title race), when the table was often very tight at Christmas before one or two teams pulled away with crazy winning/unbeaten runs. I’d expect the same to happen here with Liverpool and Manchester City (if Sergio Aguero stays fit).
United are the most intriguing element of the title race. If they win at Anfield in January it will make things deliciously interesting, but my feeling is it’s still too soon for them to challenge. I said Liverpool by 10+ points at the start and I’m sticking with that. If I was a Liverpool fan I’d be slightly worried about how little Jurgen Klopp rotates, but I still think they’ll be too good.
Some more pre-match reading
Spurs were supposed to be playing Fulham right now, but the match was postponed at the last minute because of a Covid outbreak at Fulham. That didn’t impress Jose Mourinho much.
Steve Bruce has made one change to the Newcastle side that lost 2-0 at Manchester City on Boxing Day: Callum Wilson replaces Miguel Almiron.
There’s some positive injury news for Liverpool, with James Milner returning to the starting line-up and Thiago Alcantara among the substitutes. Nat Phillips starts at centre-half in place of the injured Joel Matip.
Newcastle (3-4-2-1) Darlow; Clark, Fernandez, Schar; Yedlin, M Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie; Murphy, Joelinton; Wilson.
Substitutes: Dubravka, Lewis, Krafth, Shelvey, Hendrick, Almiron, S Longstaff, Carroll, Gayle.
Liverpool (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Substitutes: Kelleher, R Williams, N Williams, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri, Minamino, Origi.
Referee Paul Tierney.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Newcastle v Liverpool from St James’ Park. It’s the last Premier League game of 2020, and Liverpool’s final match of a momentous year in which they won their first league title since 1990. Their title defence hasn’t reached the same awesome heights, at least not consistently, but they are still top and will move five points clear of Manchester United if they win tonight. It’s not exactly a crisis.
Newcastle have had a decent season in terms of results, especially given the Covid outbreak that hit them so hard, but there has been the usual discontent over their style of play. They won’t be turning into Brazil 1970 tonight, understandably so given the opposition. If Newcastle draw 1-1 through a thrice-deflected 94th-minute goal from Jonjo Shelvey, having had 4 per cent of the possession, they’ll have had a good night. Any change in style will have to wait till next year.
Kick off 8pm.