On Saturday's late kick-off, Liverpool will visit St. James Park to face a troubled Newcastle United in the English Premier League.
Crisis isn't an unfamiliar situation at Newcastle. Since the Mike Ashley era began, it has been a nagging persistent feeling they just can't get rid of. After gaining promotion in emphatic fashion and overseeing a blistering start to the Premier League this season, Chris Hughton was sacked during the week, after a run of five games without victory. The club's supporters and players were reeling in disbelief when the new manager, Alan Pardew, their eighth since 2006, was appointed two days later.
This latest decision by Ashley plunges the owner's popularity curve further below negative. Newcastle were looking to enjoy some much needed stability when this latest boardroom drama dipped the club, who were just a fortnight back relishing a 1-1 away draw against Champions Chelsea, into crisis. This provides the backdrop for Liverpool's visit and Pardew's first game in charge of Newcastle.
It isn't Pardew who is responsible for the club's current travails. However, he will probably find himself in a very hostile environment with the Magpies faithful keen to voice their disapproval against Ashley. He will also have to win over the players who were open in their support for Hughton after he was sacked. It will be a hard task however, especially considering Newcastle's current form. They haven't won in five league games and have faced heavy defeats against Bolton and West Brom since their win against Arsenal a month back and this blip has seen them pummel down to 12th in league.
The run of bad results have coincided with injuries and suspensions to key players, and they will hope Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton can shake of their respective injuries. It's too short a time for Pardew to have a tangible effect, but he will hope for a boost in performance, that normally accompanies a new manager, to see off the Liverpool challenge.
Pardew will find someone he can empathize with in his counterpart on Saturday, Roy Hodgson, who faced some backlash from a section of Liverpool supporters earlier in the season. However, Hodgson has managed to turn things around and they come to this game on the back of an impressive 3-0 win against Aston Villa at Anfield. Their run of 4 wins in 4 home games has seen them jump to 8th in the league, though they could have been higher up had it not been for their abysmal away form.
Liverpool last won an away game at the end of October against Bolton, and has since seen two defeats and a draw in the away games since. Look a bit further and they have lost five of their last eight away games this season.
However, they will hope to take advantage of the troubles at Newcastle and look to set their away record straight. Though they will be without the influential pair of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, they will welcome back Fernando Torres who missed the game against Villa after his wife went into labour.
Liverpool won 5-1 in their last visit to St James' Park in December 2008. The Reds have won their last four games against Newcastle since the Magpies 2-1 home win in February 2007.
Team News -
Newcastle will miss the defensive pair of Coloccini and Williamson through suspension while Ben Arfa, Dan Gosling and R Taylor will all be sidelined with injuries. Skipper Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Steve Harper and Danny Guthrie are all nursing injuries and are doubtful.
Liverpool will not risk Steven Gerrard on Saturday and the skipper will sit out the game continuing his recovery from a hamstring injury. Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher are also injured and will play no part.
Table Position -
Newcastle currently lie 12th in the table, three points behind Liverpool. A win will see them rise to 8th though a loss can send them pummeling down to 16th, just a point above the relegation zone, depending on other results.
Liverpool will look for a win which will see them enter the top six of the league from their current 8th spot. However, a loss can see them drop down to 12th, depending on other results.
It will be interesting to see how Newcastle responds to Pardew. It will take time for his methods to work, especially so at a club in dire need of some stability. They will be boosted by the return of Kevin Nolan, who looks likely to shake off his injury. However, they face a Liverpool side who will attack at every opportunity and look to exploit Newcastle's current situation. A 2-1 win for Liverpool looks probable.