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Preview: Liverpool vs. Newcastle United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews the Boxing Day clash between unbeaten league leaders Liverpool and Newcastle United, including predictions, teams news and head-to-head records.

One of the Premier League's most entertaining fixtures will enter its latest chapter on Boxing Day when Liverpool host Newcastle United at Anfield.

The hosts go into the match sitting four points clear at the top of the Premier League table, whereas Newcastle are 15th and only five points clear of the relegation zone.


Liverpool

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp watches on during his side's Champions League clash with Red Star Belgrade on November 6, 2018© Reuters

Liverpool could not have wished for a better Christmas present than the results which occurred at the weekend.

While victory away at Wolverhampton Wanderers may have been expected, if far from assured, the real surprise gift came a day later as closest challengers Manchester City fell to a shock defeat at home to Crystal Palace.

It was a result which ensured that Liverpool's lead stayed at four points after 18 unbeaten games of the season, not only guaranteeing them top spot on Christmas Day but also finally giving them daylight over the champions.

Eight of the last nine teams to have been top at Christmas have gone on to win the trophy, and the current Liverpool crop look far better equipped to continue that run than their class of 2013-14, who provide the only exception in the past decade.

Jurgen Klopp's side were not quite at their best against Wolves on Friday night, allowing too many shots in the first half, but they still ran out 2-0 winners to claim their 11th clean sheet of the season, with Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah stealing the show.

No team in the history of English top-flight football has conceded fewer goals than Liverpool's tally of seven from their first 18 games of the campaign, and it is that uncharacteristic solidity at the back which has been the foundation for their latest title charge.

Liverpool have now won seven Premier League matches in a row and will be expected to make it eight on Wednesday, although Klopp will be the first to warn against complacency - especially with a difficult double-header against Arsenal and title rivals Manchester City to come either side of the New Year.

It is already Liverpool's highest points tally at this stage of a top-flight season and their longest ever Premier League unbeaten run, and should they avoid defeat in this match then it would be only the third time that they have begun a top-fight season with a 19-game unbeaten streak.

It is 32 years since Liverpool lost a home game on Boxing Day too, and the Reds have won their last six Anfield outings across all competitions, while they are unbeaten in their last 29 Premier League matches on home soil stretching back to April 2017.

Often the Christmas period can act as a make-or-break test for potential title contenders, and it has been so far so good for Liverpool as they bid to dethrone Man City and end their long wait for a league crown.

Recent Premier League form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW


Newcastle

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez watches on during his side's EFL Cup clash with Nottingham Forest on August 29, 2018© Reuters

As always, Rafael Benitez will receive a warm welcome back to Anfield as he visits his former club on Boxing Day.

However good things are for Liverpool under Klopp right now, Benitez oversaw arguably the best night in the club's history when they defied all the odds to lift a fifth European Cup in 2005.

Such success engenders an unbreakable bond between the manager and his supporters, and despite never getting near those heights with Newcastle, Benitez also enjoys a fantastic rapport with his current club's supporters.

The Spaniard is battling to stay out of the Championship rather than in the Champions League nowadays, and the Magpies go into Wednesday's match sitting 15th in the table - five points clear of the relegation zone.

Just four wins from their opening 18 games is not a particularly encouraging tally, but the main concern for Newcastle right now will be their scoring record - only Huddersfield Town have found the back of the net on fewer occasions this term, and that misfiring attack comes up against the sternest defence in the division on Boxing Day.

It is coming up to the biennial event of wrangling for funds to spend in the transfer window, and while Mike Ashley may be reluctant to invest much more into a club he is trying to sell, he will also know that another relegation would send the value of the Magpies plummeting.

The general consensus is that Benitez has done well with the tools at his disposal up to this point, although even his expertise will be tested by an upcoming run which sees Newcastle face five of the top six in their next seven league games.

Optimists will point out that Newcastle have only lost two of their last nine league games, whereas pessimists will argue that they have only won one of their last five and have only scored three goals in that time.

Both approaches would have to concede that a trip to Anfield does not look particularly promising right now, though, especially as Newcastle have lost nine of their last 10 Premier League games against teams starting the day top of the table.

One glimmer of hope is that Newcastle have been better away from home than they have on their own turf so far this season, with 10 of their 17 points and just two of their nine defeats having come on the road.

Recent Premier League form: WLDLWD


Team News

Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring the opener during the Champions League group game between Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain on September 18, 2018© Reuters

Liverpool may be tempted to make changes with Arsenal at the weekend and Manchester City after that, which could open the door for fringe players such as Daniel Sturridge.

The striker is competing for a place with the in-form Salah - who has scored 24 goals in 27 league games for Liverpool at Anfield - but the England international has a fine record against Newcastle himself with seven goals and one assist in his last nine such outings.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne are also pushing for starts, although the latter faces competition from James Milner and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is back in training after a foot injury.

Naby Keita picked up cuts to his foot and ribs during the win over Wolves and may not be risked for this match, which could open the door for Georginio Wijnaldum to return against his former club.

Newcastle, meanwhile, will be without Ki Sung-yueng after he joined up with the Korea squad for the Asian Cup.

Former Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey is struggling with a thigh injury too, which could mean that Isaac Hayden starts in midfield.

Ciaran Clark faces a late fitness test following an ankle injury, although even if he does not recover in time, Federico Fernandez is expected to be fit to feature following his recent calf problem.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Clyne, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho; Shaqiri, Firmino, Lallana; Sturridge

Newcastle possible starting lineup:
Dubravka; Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett; Kenedy, Hayden, Diame, Ritchie; Rondon


Head To Head

Newcastle have not won at Anfield in any competition since November 1995 - losing 18 of their 22 visits since - while their only Premier League triumph on this ground came on their first ever such visit in April 1994.

Home or away, the Magpies have won just two of the last 10 Premier League meetings between these two sides, drawing four and losing four in the process, including a 2-0 defeat at Anfield in their most recent contest.

Liverpool have scored in each of their last 22 home Premier League games against Newcastle, which is a competition record they will be looking to extend.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle

Complacency appears to be the only danger for Liverpool in this match. Everything points towards a comfortable home win to the extent that Newcastle even scoring against Liverpool's miserly defence would be something of a surprise.


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Who will win the Boxing Day clash between Liverpool and Newcastle?

Liverpool
Draw
Newcastle
Liverpool
87.1%
Draw
4.3%
Newcastle
8.6%
Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring the opener during the Champions League group game between Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain on September 18, 2018
Read Next:
How Liverpool could line up against Newcastle
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool34267177205785
2Manchester CityMan City33272486226483
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs332211064343067
4Arsenal33206766402666
5Chelsea34206857362166
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd33197763441964
7Leicester CityLeicester34145154645147
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves33138124142-147
9Everton34137144644246
10Watford33137134748-146
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham34126164252-1042
12Bournemouth34125174961-1241
13Crystal Palace34116174046-639
14Burnley34116174260-1839
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle34108163243-1138
16Southampton3399153954-1536
17Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton3396183253-2133
18Cardiff CityCardiff3494213063-3331
RFulham3455243276-4420
RHuddersfield TownHuddersfield3435261967-4814

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