The period between Christmas and the new year is notorious for the feelings of lethargy and malaise it can produce in sofa-bound families watching an Indiana Jones film for the 247th time. You wouldn’t expect similar listlessness amongst elite-level athletes, mind you, however Liverpool’s performance in the 1-1 draw with West Brom on Sunday suggested that a few of the players were still, spiritually at least, tucking into a box of Heroes on the sofa themselves.
In theory, the Reds did little wrong – they enjoyed 78% possession against a West Brom side who, in time served Sam Allardyce fashion, sat deep in a double block of ten players and looked to stifle the room in which Liverpool’s players could operate.
And it was a plan that worked, more or less. Of the 17 shots Jurgen Klopp’s men attempted, only two were on target – one of those being the Reds’ 12th minute goal when Joel Matip’s searching ball found Sadio Mane in a rare bit of space, and the Senegalese ace made the most of his chance to put Liverpool in front.
A familiar pattern then kicked in as the Reds dominated possession, with West Brom offering very little in attack. It was almost like a training ground exercise, but Liverpool’s attacking stars lacked their normal pizazz and guile and struggled to find a way through the Midlanders’ stubborn resistance.
The danger with being 1-0 up for so long is that it only takes a moment of attacking pressure from your opponents to nick a point, and West Brom served notice of more progressive intent in the second period when Karlan Grant fired a decent strike at goal that was well saved by Alisson.
That proved to be more than a false dawn for the Baggies as Semi Ajayi leapt highest to nod home an 82nd minute equaliser to complete what appeared to be an incredible rescue mission from Big Sam’s team.
Bobby Firmino could – should? – have notched a winner late on for the hosts but Sam Johnstone made an outstanding save, and in the end that was that: very much two points down the drain for a groggy Liverpool side.
They will need to shake off the malaise soon, however, as a trip to Newcastle is on the cards for Wednesday.
Liverpool Team News
Not for the first time in his Reds career, Joel Matip was forced to limp off in the second half against West Brom, and the subsequent diagnosis of a groin problem suggests he will miss out against the Magpies.
Naby Keita was also forced to withdraw from Sunday’s game and he too looks likely to miss the trip east, although more reassuring was the presence of James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the squad against West Brom – the latter continued his comeback with a late cameo.
Two games in 72 hours is tough on the legs, and we’d expect Klopp to make some rotations to his starting eleven on Wednesday.
Newcastle United Form
Steve Bruce always seems like something of an easy target for objectors to his conservative style, and it’s true that 17 goals in 14 games is a paltry return.
But that brings with it defensive stability, and in turning Newcastle into a safe mid-table outfit Bruce has done an excellent job.
Their formline – W2 D1 L3 – hints at inconsistency, but actually the Magpies have been as predictable as possible: they have beaten two teams below them (West Brom and Crystal Palace), lost to three above them (Man City, Leeds and Chelsea) and drawn with Fulham in their last six.
If such a pattern continues on Wednesday, expect the Reds to get back to winning ways….
Newcastle United vs Liverpool Betting Tips
As this time of year, normal logic and trends can go out of the window.
However, if we are to follow the numbers, this game has a narrow Liverpool win written all over it – that is the angle that bettors have to be taking too.
Making it pay is another matter entirely, with the Reds an unbackable 1/3 to win by any means.
So we’re going to have to delve a bit deeper, and given Newcastle’s shyness in front of goal we can back Liverpool to Win to Nil – such an eventuality is available at odds of 8/13.
If you want to try your luck in a different way, we can Dutch the correct scores of 1-0 and 2-0 to Liverpool at 8/1 and 7/1 respectively.