52 min: Liverpool break four on two. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s clunker of a pass lets Newcastle off the hook. Anfield groans. There are a few nerves crackling around the old place. This game remains in the balance.
50 min: Salah – who’d take him off?! – nearly releases Oxlade-Chamberlain on goal with a delicious Barnesesque backheel. Not quite. Elsewhere, Schar launches into an impetuous two-footed lunge on Mane. Fortunately it’s a bit half-hearted, plus Mane leaps elegantly out of the road. But that could have been ugly. No action is taken, though to be fair, nobody’s complaining.
49 min: Liverpool nearly score a sensational team goal. The ball’s flicked down the middle, a series of cute passes between Mane, Fabinho and Wijnaldum. It’s fed left to Robertson, who hooks inside for Wijnaldum. The Dutch international brings the ball down with a telescopic leg, then flicks a looper towards the top right. It’s inches over the bar, with Dubravka backtracking in a panic, not likely to get there. That was all very pretty.
47 min: Newcastle are immediately on the front foot. A loose ball bouncing around the Liverpool box allows Krafth to romp in from the right and take a shot. His effort is deflected out for a corner that’s only noteworthy because Shelvey gets a polite round of appreciative applause from the Kop when he takes the set piece.
And we’re off again! Newcastle get the second half underway. No changes, though on that subject here’s Ian Copestake: “Mo seems a bit off his feed (nothing to do with Mane scoring obviously). Do you think he should be hooked to give Power Cube a go?” Why not? It’d be fascinating to see the lesser-spotted Shaqiri at some point. He’s well rested, if nothing else. And of course to witness the startled look on Salah’s coupon when he’s taken off.
Half-time entertainment. Messi < Ronaldo < Mane < Willems. We’re all agreed on that, right?
HALF TIME: Liverpool 2-1 Newcastle United
And that’s the first half over and done with. Newcastle started strongly but will be happy to hear the whistle. An opportunity to regroup. What a goal Jetro Willems scored, though.
45 min +1: Alexander-Arnold’s right-wing cross is cleared. Wijnaldum stuns it on the edge of the box and shoots towards the bottom left, but it’s a dribbler and Dubravka is able to claim easily.
44 min: Almiron breaks clear down the right, but he’s well offside. Newcastle have shown very little in attack since the equaliser.
42 min: Alexander-Arnold hooks in from the right. Mane nearly returns the favour to Firmino, cushioning the ball down for his team-mate, 12 yards out. But Willems manages to read the danger and deflects the ball away, denying Firmino the chance to shoot. Newcastle need to hear the half-time whistle.
GOAL! Liverpool 2-1 Newcastle United (Mane 40)
Firmino robs Atsu in the midfield. He slips a lovely pass down the inside-right channel. Mane bursts into the box after it. Dubravka should claim, sliding out to gather, but the ball clanks off his hip and tees up Mane for a simple tap-in.
39 min: It’s gone scrappy again, which will suit Newcastle. They’d been under constant bombardment since the equaliser.
37 min: To be clear, it wasn’t anything Almiron did. They were both running by the touchline, and Origi stepped off the pitch and slipped on some artificial turf, turning his ankle. He limps off, dejected. On comes Roberto Firmino.
35 min: Origi sits down. It looks as though he’s got a problem with his left ankle, perhaps from that earlier coming together with Almiron. He’s getting some treatment while everyone else takes a drink.
33 min: Liverpool continue to press. Alexander-Arnold crosses from the right. Mane chests down, and looks to have created room to shoot, but can’t quite sort his feet out.
32 min: Van Dijk has a shot from 30 yards. Nope. Incidentally, that was Sadio Mane’s 17th league goal of 2019. Only Sergio Aguero, with 18, has scored more in this calendar year.
31 min: Another Liverpool corner, out on the left. It comes to nothing. But the hosts have finally turned up. After the shakiest of starts, they’re beginning to put Newcastle under serious pressure now.
30 min: A cross hit deep from the Liverpool left. Matip, so often a threat when he goes up, wins a header. His looping effort briefly threatens to fall into the top left, but Dubravka has it covered. Goal kick.
GOAL! Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United (Mane 28)
Liverpool forget all about the non-penalty decision. Robertson powers his way past Schar down the left and into the box. The ball is laid off for Mane, who opens his body up and curls an unstoppable shot into the top right. Dubravka had no chance, that was perfectly placed.
26 min: But Liverpool are slowly finding their rhythm, and Salah wins another corner down the left. The set piece is lumped into the mixer, and Matip looks to have been dragged over by Lascelles. The Newcastle defender’s arm is around his opponent’s neck, but the referee doesn’t think there’s enough in it. VAR refuses to overturn. You’ve seen them given.
25 min: Fabinho chips a fine pass down the inside right for Alexander-Arnold, whose first-time ball into the middle is blocked out for a corner by Dummett. Another crucial intervention, because Salah was waiting to sidefoot home. The corner comes to nothing.
23 min: Alexander-Arnold whips a glorious cross in from the right. Origi is preparing to smash a header home from six yards when Lascelles eyebrows away heroically. Mane tries to set up Origi again from the left, but though the striker connects with this cross, he can only lamely send the ball dribbling wide right. What defending by Lascelles, though!
22 min: Another long pass nearly does for Liverpool. Joelinton turns Matip and tears clear on goal, but the flag goes up. That was closer than the hosts would have liked. They don’t look secure at the back at all. On the bench, Steve Bruce argues that Joelinton had been played on by Alexander-Arnold, and he may have had a point.
21 min: Liverpool try to pick up the tempo, at last, but Newcastle are snapping into the tackles, closing down all the space. It’s hard for the hosts to string more than a couple of passes together. Eventually Oxlade-Chamberlain gets frustrated and tugs Shelvey to the ground. Free kick, and the pressure’s relieved on Newcastle.
19 min: Adrian’s off his line now, and that encourages Shelvey to attempt to Xabi Alonso one into the net from inside his own half. His effort barely hits the right-hand corner flag, but full marks for ambition.
18 min: Willems is causing Liverpool all sorts of bother out on the left. He powers into a little pocket of space and curls a delicate cross into the centre, where Almiron heads off target from an offside position. Adrian was a bit uncertain there, not sure whether to come off his line or not.
17 min: Origi twists, turns and earns the first corner of the match, out on the Liverpool left. Van Dijk and Matip come up. The former wins a header, but can only send it straight into the air. Newcastle half clear. The ball’s whipped back in from the right, Mane contorting his body impressively to get a header away, though it’s always going over. Better from Liverpool.
15 min: Mane and Alexander-Arnold combine down the right. Alexander-Arnold pulls back viciously from the byline, the ball breaking to Wijnaldum on the edge of the box. Wijnaldum should either shoot or feed Robertson, free to his left, but does neither. Instead he gives the ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain on his right, and a harmless floater is sent over the bar.
13 min: The Blaydon Races pinging off the walls of Anfield. Liverpool have had 81 percent of the possession so far, yet have been distinctly second best so far. That’s statistics for you.
11 min: Liverpool finally wake up. Oxlade-Chamberlain strides forward, drifting gently left to right, and lashes a shot towards the bottom left. It’s always heading wide, but that’s at least something positive for the hosts, who look a bit groggy right now.
10 min: Another long ball, and Willems very nearly races clear down his wing. Alexander-Arnold steps up just in time, and the Newcastle scorer is offside. Just. Liverpool were playing a dangerous game there. They haven’t got started at all.
9 min: Liverpool had been sloppy from the get-go, and paid the price there. Anfield was pretty quiet before Willems struck; the home fans have been shaken into making some noise now. The away supporters are certainly doing their bit.
GOAL! Liverpool 0-1 Newcastle United (Willems 7)
Well, well, well! A long ball down the middle finds Atsu in space. He’s given a ludicrous amount of time to bring the ball down, turn, and feed Willems to his left. And then … wham! Willems drops a shoulder to make space inside Alexander-Arnold, shifts the ball between his feet deliciously, and launches a stunning rising strike across a helpless Adrian and into the top right! What a goal!
5 min: Newcastle clearly haven’t come here just to sit back, like they did at Spurs. Joelinton busies himself again, and finds Atsu down the left. Atsu nearly slips the lively Almiron free into the area, but Van Dijk is on hand to nick the ball back to Adrian, who clears his lines.
4 min: A nice dribble by Joelinton in the centre circle. He nearly releases Almiron into space down the right. Robertson intercepts. Origi goes over in a fair 50-50 challenge with Almiron, and for a second looks in pain, but he’s up again quickly enough. All a bit scrappy so far, truth be told.
And we’re off! Looks like Liverpool have lost the toss, because they’re kicking off and attacking the Kop in this first half, contrary to preference. The more superstitious locals won’t like that. Much good turning Liverpool round like this did Arsenal the other week, mind.
The teams are out! A lovely sunny September day at Anfield, and an atmosphere to match. The players clasp hands and bump fists. We’ll be off in a minute, just after the showtunes.
Jurgen Klopp speaks to BT Sport. “We have to rotate. Bobby is ready, Hendo is ready, but we have to think about the bigger picture. We could have made more changes, but then again we need to think about the rhythm as well, and we respect Newcastle too much to think about rotating and rotating. Newcastle were impressive against Tottenham, they were physically strong with a clear plan, and we need to have solutions for that.”
A view inside the changing room. This is the home team’s inner sanctum. It’s a bit busy, isn’t it? Sensory overload. It’s on-brand, if nothing else. But this picture does allow us to exclusively reveal that Liverpool will be playing today in red shirts. Newcastle, sources close to the club have intimated, will wear black and white.
Liverpool make two changes from the Burnley game a fortnight ago. Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson are encouraged to rest on the bench, recovering from their recent efforts for Brazil and England. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, making his 50th appearance for the club, and Divock Origi step up.
Newcastle make just one change from their last game against Watford. Jonjo Shelvey returns to Anfield, replacing the injured Sean Longstaff.
Liverpool: Adrian, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mane, Origi.
Subs: Milner, Firmino, Gomez, Henderson, Lallana, Shaqiri, Kelleher.
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems, Atsu, Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Joelinton.
Subs: Clark, Ki, Muto, Fernandez, Manquillo, Darlow, Matthew Longstaff.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
This is one of the signature Premier League fixtures, its status the result of that game 23 years ago. A classic’s a classic’s a classic. Not that folk from the north-east will necessarily see it that way; one fan’s signature fixture is another’s annual ordeal. And since the heady April 1996 evening when Stan Collymore sent Kevin Keegan slumping over the hoardings in despair, Newcastle United have taken many other painful beatings at Anfield: another 4-3, one 4-2, five 3-0s and a 4-0 last Christmas. Oh Stan, what did you start.
There’s also the small matter of Liverpool’s club-record 13-match winning run in the Premier League. With Mo Salah and Sadio Mane fully rested during international fortnight, they’re extremely short-priced favourites to win this lunchtime. Newcastle are a healthy 16-1 shot, which looks generous enough until you consider they’ve not won in the league at Anfield for a quarter of a century.
But this is football, right here, and nothing’s ever certain. Liverpool may have done the double over Newcastle last season, but the Toon gave them a real match at St James’ Park in May. They’ve already pulled off one of the shocks of the early season by winning at Spurs. And Steve Bruce has a decent managerial record against Liverpool, with a win ratio of one in four, not bad going considering he’s always cast in the role of David to the red Goliath.
So while Liverpool will be hoping to make it five out of five in the league this season, they can take nothing for granted. Especially as their previously parsimonious defence has been serving up a few chances this season: just the one clean sheet so far. Can Newcastle spring another shock? Or will Liverpool consolidate their position at the top of the table? We’ll soon find out. The Premier League’s back. It’s on!
Kick off: 12.30pm BST.