By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
If there’s one thing you can expect from a match between Liverpool and Newcastle United, it’s goals.
There have been 17 of them in the last five meetings between the sides. The Reds and the Magpies haven’t shared a goalless draw since February 1974. It last happened at Anfield in February 1970. When these two meet, the ball hits the back of the net.
That’s not to say that Liverpool have had it all their own way against the north east side. The Merseysiders have recorded some impressive victories against this opponent, but they have also endured some pretty galling defeats.
Newcastle’s 2-0 win over the travelling Reds in December 2015 was particularly troubling. The hosts were in the relegation zone, but an own goal from Martin Skrtel put the visitors on the wrong track. Some lad called Georginio Wijnaldum scored the second. Jurgen Klopp was clearly impressed by the Dutchman’s audition.
But Liverpool have happier memories. The 3-2 victory over Rafa Benitez’s miserly Magpies at the end of last season breathed new life into the Reds’ title push, while a 6-0 demolition of Alan Pardew’s side at St. James’ Park in April 2013 is a fond recent memory.
Jordan Henderson scored twice that day. Now club captain, the Sunderland-born midfielder will be hoping the current crop of Anfield stars can channel the spirit of that day and produce another rampant display, this time on home soil.
No doubt he and Klopp would be – in the simplest sense – pleased even if their side only manage a scrappy victory by the odd goal. Considering the standard set by Liverpool and Manchester City last season, a single draw at any stage could be the difference between winning the Premier League and, well, not.
If they were to really fill their boots in this one, though, it would be a tonic for confidence and morale heading into the main part of the new season. With the Champions League Group Stage round the corner and domestic competitions lying in wait, games will start to come thick and fast for the next few months.
Newcastle are there for the taking. Off-pitch turmoil has seen Rafa leave and Steve Bruce come in. An admirable victory away at Tottenham Hotspur aside, his side have looked uninspired in the first few games. They also have half-a-dozen notable absentees through injury. It’s a great time to play against the Magpies.
Liverpool’s front three in particular must be licking their lips in anticipation of this one. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have scored twice each in the league in the opening stages, while Standard Chartered Player of the Month Mohamed Salah has three already. All three will fancy themselves to add to their respective tallies when Newcastle visit Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp would, of course, downplay the importance of opening the floodgates here. He would simply speak of taking what they’ve learned at Melwood onto the pitch at Anfield, getting the job done and moving on to the next one.
While that is the main goal – and the bare acceptable minimum – picking up where they left off at Burnley two weeks ago will tell Manchester City that this Liverpool side are ready to go the distance and push them all the way once again.
Ability can take you far, but football is a sport of mentalities. So often the player or team with the most mental strength and self-belief is the one that ultimately finds success.
Every Liverpool rout will only boost that belief. It might just get Pep Guardiola’s array of expensive stars feeling the pressure, too.
Let’s be the mentality giants once again.