Liverpool will travel to Newcastle United on Saturday with their “strongest squad” of the season so far, according to manager Brendan Rodgers. The international break has allowed the trio of Glen Johnson, Joe Allen and Aly Cissokho to return to fitness.
It has already been a fine start to the campaign for Liverpool, who sit second in the Premier League table, level on points with table-toppers Arsenal. And Rodgers has reason to believe that their strong form will continue, with Lucas Leiva also back from suspension even though fellow-Brazilian Philippe Coutinho remains out.
“We'll arrive with our strongest squad of the season against Newcastle,” Rodgers said, according to Liverpool’s official website. "They haven't played games, but they've been training now for the last few weeks.
“Lucas will come back into the squad. He's another player who has shown his worth and he's got himself back into the Brazil squad. We've got a number of players here who are developing and improving in their careers, and he's one of them.”
It has been a mixed start to the season for Newcastle, but manager Alan Pardew insists that the team is in far better shape than when they were humiliated 6-0 at home by Liverpool in April. Newcastle come into this latest contest on the back of a 2-1 win at Cardiff City and Pardew is confident of a good performance from his side.
“Psychologically it's a completely different place to where we were," he said, according to the Newcastle United website. "We're in a much better place now and we'll give a better account of ourselves. "It's a game you don't ever want to experience but it happens sometimes in a season. You have to make sure it doesn't happen again and try to build yourself up."
Newcastle go into the match without Argentinian duo Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez. Center-back Coloccini suffered a groin injury on international duty, while the versatile Gutierrez has returned to his homeland because of personal reasons. Steven Taylor looks set to remain out with a hamstring problem, with namesake Ryan is a long-term absentee.
D: Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon
M: Tiote, Cabaye
Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Remy
D: Toure, Agger, Sakho
M: Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Enrique
F: Suarez, Sturridge
Prediction: Newcastle have been incredibly inconsistent -- their performances varying greatly from one match to the next and indeed, in the case of the defeat at Everton, from one half to the next. There are some quality players at the club, with Loic Remy having made a big impact since arriving on loan, but there remains a dark atmosphere around St James’ Park, perhaps in part due to events off the pitch during the summer. There has been a lack of application at times and Newcastle’s defense has often been shambolic.
Liverpool, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge on fire, certainly have the ability to take advantage of the generosity that is likely to come their way. The one concern for Rodgers this season has been their tendency to start well and their tail off in the second half, something he pointed out after the win over Crystal Palace last time out. A more complete performance should see Liverpool continue their impressive run.
Newcastle United 1-2 Liverpool
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 7.45 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.