Newcastle United face Liverpool in The Premier League at St James' Park in Saturday's 5.30pm kick-off game with The Carabao Cup Final at Wembley Stadium and the chance to lift the club's first major trophy for 54 years looming large in the minds of players, fans and everyone connected with the Geordie club knowing a win against The Reds could virtually end their faint hopes of Champions League football.
Last week, The Magpies drew 1-1 with Bournemouth thanks to Miguel Almiron's equalising goal just before half-time but of more concern was the injuries to Joe Willock, Allan Saint-Maximin and goal-scorer Almiron who were all substituted.
Liverpool beat Everton in the Merseyside derby on Monday Night Football with goals from Mo Salah and a first Reds goal for January signing Cody Gapko but after real struggles in The Premier League this season leaving them 9th in the table nine points behind Newcastle, talk of a Champions League surge may be premature.
Jurgen Klopp certainly thinks so labelling " Really Dumb" anyone believing Liverpool are "Back" after one positive result against an Everton side deep in relegation trouble despite showing good form in the win against The Toffees:
After three consecutive away defeats in The Premier League to Wolves, Brighton and Brentford with nine goals conceded and just 1 scored, Klopp is taking nothing for granted ahead of a "difficult" game at St James' Park:
"We have to prove it. We cannot now say, 'That's it. We are back'. That would be really dumb, but it felt like us, it looked like us.
"It's not the best timing but if that's the moment, we take it and let's go from here - but we have to keep going. Very interesting and difficult games to play, but I think with that tonight everyone starts believing a little bit more again in us. It felt just like a massive relief after the game to be honest that we could play the game we played. Now, let's carry on."
It was an extremely feisty encounter - 'The Battle of Anfield' its been dubbed - back in August which is still remarkably the only match The Magpies have lost in The Premier League this season and a game that left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone connected with Newcastle after Liverpool scored the winner in the 8th minute of injury time despite the fourth official only showing that 5 minutes extra time should be played:
Geordie Legend Alan Shearer took to social media to vent the anger felt by Newcastle and the Magpies bench who had angry exchanges with Klopp & the Liverpool bench:
It was Alexander Isak's debut for Newcastle following his sensational £60M move from Real Sociedad to become the club's record signing and he immediately showed his worth thrashing an opening goal into the top corner with his first shot for his new club from Sean Longstaff's excellent through ball:
And the Sweden international was ruled offside in the tightest of decisions for a deserved second that would have wrapped up the three points after dancing a merry jig through the Liverpool defence:
It was a decision that left fans scratching their heads following changes to the offside that were meant to give benefit of the doubt to the attacker as Man United's Marcus Rashford has enjoyed against Liverpool just the previous week in The Premier League:
Despite having one eye on the Cup Final, Eddie Howe will know that a win against The Reds would virtually end Liverpool's Top 4 hopes as it would open up a mammoth twelve-point gap over The Reds, who like Chelsea will be hoping for a spectacular second-half of the season and Champions League dash despite being behind Brighton, Fulham and Brentford in 9th and 10th places in The Premier League.
As well as knocking Liverpool out of The Top 4 race, it would also reinforce Newcastle's own credentials, not just for The Champions League but for an unlikely Premier League title race as the week after Wembley, Newcastle travel away to Manchester City, who last night defeated Arsenal 3-1 to leave Newcastle standing alone as the only team in The Premier League to remain undefeated at home this season:
Newcastle's only Premier League defeat at Liverpool will sting as once again The Reds who have earned their LiVARpool nickname due to constantly being bailed out of trouble by officials on and off the pitch, were helped enormously and they have already benefitted from dodgy decisions ahead of Saturday's game as they could and should have had at least one and possible even two or three men sent off in their Brighton FA Cup defeat which meant players would have been suspended for the Newcastle game:
Yet Head of VAR Neil Swarbrick failed to send Fabinho for a clear red card and the PGMOL were forced to admit their error after the game:
Newcastle weren't so 'lucky' two days later when Bruno Guimaraes was sent off in The Carabao Cup meaning a 3-match suspension including the Liverpool game although Newcastle fans are all relieved their star man will return for the Wembley final:
Eddie Howe may have to do without Bruno while Liverpool can boast Fabinho in their midfield but the Newcastle manager revealed in his presser that he welcomes back a fully fit Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin after knocks against Bournemouth:
Unfortunately, Joe Willock is still on the injured list after going off with a hamstring complaint and faces a race against time for The Carabao Cup Final next week while Callum Wilson is touch and go for the Liverpool game after missing training this week and with his injury record it may be best to wrap him up in cotton wool until Wembley:
Howe paid tribute to Newcastle's excellent home form but warned about team's parking the bus at St James' Park which I cannot see Liverpool doing which may open more opportunities for a fast Newcastle attacking featuring perhaps a first start for Everton supporter Anthony Gordon against his boyhood club's bitter rivals plus Alex Isak:
Prediction - Newcastle 3 Liverpool 0