KICKOFF: 8:30am EST
TV: FSC +
MAGPIE MEETING PLACE: Coming Home Newcastle
You'd like to think that with the league season shot, and there being no pressure, Liverpool can play the rest of their league games care free and loose, except for those that might be auditioning for a job next season. But I bet the overriding feeling with you, as it is with me, is that they'll simply be in Fugazi's Waiting Room until April 14th, and then possibly a Final after that or just waiting for the summer to kick in. I want to believe different, I really do. But sadly, I watched the past two games, and so did you.
With a full week off, Liverpool should have a full team to select from other than those who are fully injured. Hopefully it's been enough time for Martin Kelly to recover from whatever knock he had, because the last time John Flanagan had to deal with Jonas Gutierrez, he got windburn to the point that Glen Johnson had to be flipped over to the right. Daniel Agger is still out, and another thing I'd like to believe is that Sebastien Coates will get the rest of the season for his full baptism, without the babysitter of Jamie Carragher. Because what's that doing anyway? Maybe Carra and Coates start together to give the panting Martin Skrtel a breather, or maybe that comes next week before the semifinal. There really isn't another option other than Jose Enrique, who's stepping on his tongue as much as Skrtel is these days.
Midfield? Well, Raheem Sterling isn't going to get a start after a lone sub appearance. I know it didn't work last week, but there's little option than to start Spearing-Gerrard-Henderson because of injuries to others. Jonjo Shelvey isn't going to waltz back into the 11, or at least you wouldn't think. So the only question is whether Henderson will be shunted out to the right again to waste all of our time with Downing on the other side, or will Dalglsh opt for Kuyt and Downing as inverted wingers to be an even bigger waste of time. As a former Sunderland player, Henderso should be itching to play in this one,as well as to put the awful 45 against Wigan behind him.
Up front, speaking of wastes of time, I can't escape the feeling that Kuyt will still start ahead of Carroll, seemingly having bitched his way into a regular starting place. But Suarez, Carroll, and Gerrard together have been when Liverpool are at their best, and that shouldn't change. Throw Downing on the left side of the top two and be done with it. This will be me shouting at the rain when I discover the lineup doesn't look like this, but I'm well practiced at that.
Newcastle have their injury worries, but will be sporting a front line that's gone all Punisher lately. The two Dembas (Cisse and Ba) have combined to provide a lot of fun, and if Ben Arfa can combine with them they can weave patterns prettier than Lucy in the sky. But behind that, the sick list is ravaging them. Already without Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini is going to miss out, which would lead you to believe that Carroll could run wild if he's given the chance. Tiote and Ryan Taylor are also questionable, and a huge part of Newcastle's success has been the combo of Tiote and Cabaye in the middle of the park.
St. James Park (I won't call it whatever it is now, it's St. James) makes even the biggest of opponents pause with nervousness. It feels like Liverpool are either superb there or get absolutely hammered. They did last time in another limp dick Roy Hodgson performance. Games between these two are rarely boring, and maybe that's all we should settle for after last week's....well, whatever that was.