Liverpool FC is on the crest of a wave at the moment, and the performance level in Friday’s 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers was described as ‘perfect football’ by no less a judge than Jurgen Klopp.
Wolves away is one of those sticky Premier League fixtures that nobody really fancies; Manchester City and Chelsea have both dropped points in the West Midlands, and Tottenham had to survive a late onslaught in a 3-2 win.
So apprehension was expected, to some extent, from the boys in red, and yet they delivered one of their finest efforts of the campaign to date to maintain the pressure at the top of the Premier League table. The fact that City lost less than 24 hours later was the mere icing on the cake.
With the rain lashing own and a Molineux crowd in full voice, it bore all the hallmarks of an upset.
But those concerns were put to bed early in the piece when Fabinho exchanged passes with Sadio Mane before a cross found its way to Mo Salah, who finished in sublime style to give us the lead after just 18 minutes.
We had to wait a while for the next goal as Wolves grew in confidence, but it eventually came when Salah lifted a ball over their defence and Virgil van Dijk showed his customary cool and class to rifle home.
And so we remain unbeaten in the league and sit four points clear on Christmas Day; no wonder Klopp was in a festive mood in his post-match press conference.
“I’m completely happy with the result and it is big for us. It was brilliant – both goals. It was perfect football, especially on a night when it was difficult to play proper football,” he said.
We all know how difficult it is to maintain intensity levels during the hectic fixture list at this time of year, and with games against Arsenal and Manchester City in the next ten days there is a danger that Boxing Day’s clash with Newcastle could be overlooked.
It’s a game where the Anfield faithful will play a huge part in keeping the players focused on the task in hand, so if you are heading to the game be sure to make lots of noise as you burn off some of those festive calories.
Liverpool Team News
Klopp is a smart cookie, and he knows he will have to handle his players with care this Yuletide period.
Can you remember last season when we beat Brighton 5-1, and injuries and the need to rest players meant he switched to three at the back, with Emre Can and Gigi Wijnaldum at centre half?
There is a case for something similar here against Newcastle, with Van Dijk and Dejan Lovren our only fit central defenders.
The Dutchman in particular has played a lot of football this season, and a bit of a break ahead of the Arsenal/Manchester City double header would surely be welcomed.
So don’t be surprised if the manager opts for a radical 3-4-3 style formation for one night only, with Fabinho and Wijnaldum either side of Lovren.
That would bring in Nathaniel Clyne and possibly Alberto Moreno as wing backs, with James Milner and Naby Keita holding the fort in the middle of the park.
Xherdan Shaqiri was given the night off on Friday, but he could come in to the right of Bobby Firmino, with Sadio Mane left.
Salah could be used from the bench if required, with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi also poised.
The key on Wednesday will be to win the game without endangering the long-term fitness of key figures; a formation change from Klopp could achieve just that.
Newcastle United Form
It has been a campaign of two halves for the Magpies so far.
Between the start of the season and the end of October, their Premier League formline read W0 D3 L7.
But Rafa Benitez has struck upon a more successful formula since, with a significant improvement to W4 D2 L2 since the start of winter.
Their two most recent outings have yielded a 1-0 win over Huddersfield and a 0-0 draw with Fulham.
Liverpool vs Newcastle United Betting Tips
We suspect that change and rotation is afoot for Boxing Day’s feature, as Klopp tries manfully to keep legs fresh for the challenges ahead.
Typically in such situations, a performance can be disjointed and lacking the flow of the normal high level.
Do we expect Liverpool to win? Yes, and no we don’t expect Newcastle to ask too many questions of us defensively.
But the Magpies have kept two clean sheets in a row – a nod to the organisational abilities of Benitez, and if we do change personnel in attack we may be lacking our usual offensive intent.
So there are plenty of options for punters here. We can back Newcastle with a +2.25 Asian handicap at 17/20, or alternatively Dutch a couple of correct score picks: 1-0 and 2-0 at 8/1 and 6/1 respectively.