Where: Anfield, Liverpool
When: Monday, January 1
The Premier League opens up 2024 with a New Year’s Day clash between Liverpool and Newcastle at Anfield. This is the final match of the busy festive fixture list for both sides, and it is the only game on New Year’s Day, with the round featuring six games on Saturday, two on Sunday, and Brighton traveling to West Ham on January 2.
This means that all eyes will be on Anfield, with in-form Liverpool looking to open the New Year with a win against a Newcastle team that is getting close to being in crisis mode.
It has been a stunning first half of the season, even by the standards of the Premier League. Liverpool have quietly made their way to the top of the table with 42 points from their 19 games. First to fifth is covered by just six points, with Manchester City (and their game in hand) lurking ominously alongside Arsenal, Spurs, and the surprising Aston Villa.
Newcastle have fallen off the pace and are ninth on the log with 29 points. They are one point behind Brighton and four above Chelsea, but with the Saudi PIF money in their pocket, much more was expected of the Magpies this season.
Personally, I think that is a little harsh. Newcastle overachieved in finishing in the CHampsions League places last season with a squad that hasn’t yet been rebuilt to compete at that level. The additional challenges of playing Europe’s top competition – along with a serious injury list and losing star summer signing Sandro Tonalli for the season because of his betting scandal while at AC Milan – mean that Eddie Howe’s squad is stretched far too thin.
If Newcastle had finished sixth or seventh last season – which would have been progress – then they would not be considered underachieving this campaign.
Liverpool have to win this game. The Reds are about to lose Mo Salah to the African Nations Cup for up to five matches – including against Arsenal at The Emirates in early February – and their attack loses its scoring threat without the Egyptian on the park.
Diogo Jota – a player still very underrated – has returned to fitness at just the right time, but the likes of Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz don’t score enough goals. That makes this a low-key, very important game in The Reds’ season as they get a break from Premier League action until January 10 immediately after this one.
They may also have Alexic Mac Allister back in the side, a player whose creativity they have been missing, as their rebuilt midfield is more industrious than creative without the Argentine playmaker.
Tonali is not the only Newcastle signing who has been unavailable for much of the season. The Magpies signed winger Harvey Barnes from Leicester City and hoped that a one-two punch of him and Anthony Gordon on the left wing would keep both fresh and firing. Barnes is returning, but the Liverpool game might be too soon.
The Magpies will continue their high-energy approach to the game, but players like Keiren Trippier and Joelinton are simply playing too many minutes as there is no depth.
Newcastle haven’t won a Premier League game at Anfield since 1994 and haven’t won there at all since 1995 in the (then) Coca-Cola Cup. That won’t change here, and take Liverpool to win by a couple of goals with BetXchange.