Newcastle: Fabricio Coloccini & Ryan Taylor - Out; Massadio Haidara & Steven Taylor - Doubtful
Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho, Sebastian Coates, Glen Johnson - Out; Joe Allen & Aly Cissokho - Doubtful
Newcastle vs Liverpool always tends to be one of the most sought of games for the neutrals to watch. It has been a long time since these two sides were rivals, they are not derby rivals, nor do they have a historical disdain for each other like Liverpool do with Manchester United. What makes this fixture so anticipated is the fact they usually tend to bring out the best and worst in each other.
In the 38 Premier League games Newcastle and Liverpool have played together, there has never been a goal-less draw. In 27 of those 38 games, more than 2 goals has been scored in the fixture; in 11 of the 38 games, 4 goals or higher has been scored - quite simply, it is one of the Premier Leagues most high scoring fixtures.
Considering the respective form of the two sides and their weaknesses and strengths, this years encounter looks set to follow tradition. A lot of this depends on what Newcastle decides to turn up on Saturday: the difficult to beat and clinical side of 2011/12 or the disorganised and fragmented side of last season? This year they are as inconsistent and infuriating as ever and that is down to two factors: Papiss Cisse being woefully wasteful and the chopping and changing of the rearguard.
Looking at the respective slides below, you will find Newcastle have been more consistent in their performances this year than Liverpool have. They have conceded less shots per game (11 to Liverpool's 15) and have had more chances on goal (16 to Liverpool's 13). They have enjoyed less possession (49% to Liverpool's 52%), but that is only because they play a more direct game. For this reason Newcastle have made less tackles (18 to Liverpool's 23) as the ball is on the deck less, and have won more aerial duels (55% to Liverpool's 46%) as their game requires more players with this skill.
As stated earlier, Newcastle's profligacy in front of goal is down to Papiss Cisse. With each shot he takes, it becomes more and more apparent his debut season where he scored 13 in 14 was a fluke. This season he has managed 18 shots in 7 games (2.6 on per game) and has failed to hit the back of the net. Andros Townsend has the worst shot to goal ratio in the league with 26, but Cisse is close behind. It does not help that as Newcastle's central target man Cisse is failing at his job to hold up the ball well. He has been dispossessed 15 times (an average of 2.1 times).
Considering these days Liverpool play with a back 3, Cisse will either need to be on his A-game or Pardew will have to drop him for Remy and play more on the ground or make a direct switch with Shola Ameobi. It is imperative one of the three happens as there is evidence Cisse's deficiencies have crept in the psyche of his fellow teammates. Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye have been guilty of firing shots wide, this may be a natural reaction to bypass Cisse due to his poor performances.
Screen two shows Ben Arfa has hit 19 shots (2.7 on average) and although he has scored 2 goals, not all of these shots have been necessary and one gets the feeling had Cisse been on form, Ben Arfa would have made more attempts to find his man. The fact Ben Arfa has been dispossessed 14 times (twice a game) suggests his greed is fueled partially by his talents (he has 21 dribbles in 7 games), but also the need to compensate. Screen three shows Cabaye has hit 12 shots in 5 games, affecting his ability to create. He has only created 7 chances (1.4 per game), a player of his ability should be ping passes to his teammates and shooting when required.
Newcastle 1-3 Liverpool*All statistics courtesy of WhoScored