9 points. It seems like a major gap, but with Arsenal’s recent, abrupt change in form, we’ve seen how quickly a similar lead can evaporate. 9 points is precisely the lead Newcastle, who sit in fourth place, have over Liverpool, who are in ninth but have a game in hand, and are clinging to the last shreds of hope for UCL qualification. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks as these European hopefuls share the pitch.
Newcastle United vs. Liverpool Prediction & Pick
This match is coming at a pretty tough time for both sides; while this result could very well end up determining who qualifies for next year’s Champions League, each team arguably has bigger fish to fry. Newcastle will be about a week away from taking the pitch at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final against Manchester United, while Liverpool will be just days away from hosting Real Madrid, once again, in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie. Neither team is in spectacular form; Liverpool have just escaped a dreadful stretch in which they lost three out of four Prem matches, drawing the other, but they’re hoping that an emphatic derby win over Everton will be an inflection point. As for Newcastle, they’ve won just one of their past six league contests, drawing the remaining five, they’ve been shut out in half of those outings (scoreless draws, all three of them) and scored exactly one goal in the other three.
It’s unwise to read too much into a home win over a team that looks headed for relegation, but there were some seriously encouraging developments for Liverpool in the derby. One is of course that they scored two goals after putting up none in their previous three league matches, which must be a huge confidence-builder for the team. The other is the increased health; Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino both made their first appearances in awhile after injury stints, while Virgil van Dijk didn’t get in the game, but was dressed and part of the squad. It’s hard to know how much of a role any of these players will have, especially ahead of the massive Madrid clash, but even if it’s a minor one, they’ll be providing a much-needed boost.
For these reasons, I am going to have to pick Liverpool +170 as my pick on the moneyline, although it makes me uneasy. Jürgen Klopp’s sides have usually picked up the big wins with their backs against the wall, and while this year’s side has looked different, they’re getting some big contributors back. The goalscoring line is much easier to pick; I’ve genuinely no clue how the under is in plus-odds, so under 2.5 goals at +105 is my incredibly emphatic pick in this match between teams who have often struggled to score.
Newcastle Vs. Liverpool Prediction: Liverpool +170 & Under 2.5 Goals +105
Newcastle United vs. Liverpool Odds
Newcastle are slim favorites at home, with +160 odds as compared to Liverpool’s +170; the draw is set at +250. Over 2.5 total goals is set at -130, while the under is +105.
Liverpool Attack vs. Newcastle Defense
Mo Salah has not consistently been in his usual excellent form this year, but he leads the team with 8 league goals and has contributed four assists. But it’s fair to argue that this is only the case because of Firmino’s injury. The Brazilian was having his best Liverpool season before going down, as he racked up 7 goals and 3 assists in just over half as many minutes played as Salah has- his return could be enormous for Liverpool. I’d expect him to appear as a sub, with the controversial Darwin Nunez slotting alongside newcomer Cody Gakpo. Both had much-needed positive contributions against Everton, as Gakpo finally scored his first Liverpool goal, and Nunez showed off his impressive athleticism to help Salah create the opener.
Newcastle’s defense has been the stuff of legends this year; they’ve only allowed 13 goals so far, easily the best total in the Prem and one of the best in recent memory. Their 12 clean sheets also, unsurprisingly, lead the league. Fullback Kieran Trippier has been absolutely transcendent up and down the right side, anchoring the defense and providing plenty going forward as one of the very best players in the World this year. The centre-back duo of Fabian Schär and Sven Botman, who have been together almost every match, has also been absolutely fantastic, and left back Dan Burn has been solid as well. Lastly, holding it all together is the quietly always-excellent goalkeeper Nick Pope, who is enjoying an extremely strong season himself.
Newcastle Attack vs. Liverpool Defense
The Magpies’ attack hasn’t been quite as newsworthy as the defense, but there are still some major contributors to highlight, beyond of course Trippier and what he does as a playmaker. Right winger Miguel Almirón has positively broken out this year with 10 league goals and counting- his previous best Prem total was 4. Striker Callum Wilson is a fitness question for this match, but he’s had a nice year, pairing 7 goals with 3 assists. Allan Saint-Maximin has been lively on the wing but hasn’t really made the biggest impact in terms of goal contribution, and Bruno Guimãres has been hugely influential from the midfield, but will be suspended for this match- it’ll be interesting to see if Newcastle can finally build a consistent attack without him.
Of course, the biggest storyline with Liverpool’s defense will be if, and how much, Virgil plays, but if he’s limited, the Reds can take solace knowing that the second-choice pairing of Joe Gomez and Joël Matip just had one of their best outings of the year. Andy Robertson and Alisson have predictably been the rocks as they are each putting together another great season, and for all the flak he takes, Trent Alexander-Arnold has played pretty well. With or without van Dijk, it’s a very talented defense; the only question in this match, as it has been all season, is whether they can avoid the momentary lapses that can make or break a match.