The Anfield Wrap’s match preview before Newcastle United v Liverpool in the Premier League at St. James’ Park…


FOOTBALL seasons can be really quite repetitive beasts.

There’s a funny spell that we still talk about within The Anfield Wrap whereby, during that incredible winning run in the first part of the 2019-20 season. Liverpool were winning so many games of football, and winning them in quite a similar fashion, that a lot of us found ourselves running out of superlatives.

You’d be surprised to hear that a room full of people going “these are so, so good at football,” over and over doesn’t always make for the best content.

Saying that, I’d take it any day over what we’ve had to experience this campaign. Because actually, going “this win will be the turning point” to be followed between two-seven days later by “that was the worst performance of the season,” is comfortably my least favourite kind of content.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the highs and lows of a good story as much as anybody. But being shown an escape out of a bad situation, only to have it snatched away to ensure a return to the bad situation is no way to live. Albert Einstein’s definitions and all that.

So here we are. Liverpool beat Everton 2-0 at Anfield and it is the win that should be the turning point. It could yet be another false dawn, but there was a slightly different feeling with this one — though, again, I’m certain I’ll have said that already this season.

There was just a different mood around the ground on Monday. A mood that matched the excitement of beating your rivals, doing so convincingly, and seeing the return of several key players from injury.

Liverpool's Diogo Jota is given instructions by assistant manager Peter Krawietz during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 242nd Merseyside Derby, at Anfield

That excitement continued on Friday as Jürgen Klopp confirmed in his press conference that Virgil van Dijk is ready to return to the starting lineup against Newcastle United. I’m therefore expecting that will now happen, so I can only be let down from here.

He’ll return to a familiar setup in defence, and I expect it to be Joe Gomez who keeps his place alongside his Dutch bezzie. It wouldn’t surprise me greatly if Joel Matip was preferred on the right-hand side from a purely stylistic point of view, but he’s in far less consistent form than Gomez.

In midfield, I’m expecting the same three that helped The Reds beat Everton, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager found a way to try and stagger the minutes that each of them plays with Madrid on the horizon — whether changing one from the start, or pre-planning his substitutions to give at least two an early rest.

Upfront, I’d fully expect Cody Gakpo to be given the chance to pick up where he left off after his first goal in the derby, while it would seem harsh to drop either of Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez given how much they are enjoying playing together. That will leave mouthwatering options on the bench in the returning Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino.

So the hope has been restored momentarily. The expectation has been restored momentarily. We can only be let down from here.

Please, Liverpool. Just don’t leave us hanging again.

Predicted 11: Alisson; Trent, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Bajcetic; Salah, Gakpo, Nunez

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