Newcastle host Premier League champions Liverpool on Wednesday evening, where the visitors could open a five point gap at the top of the table.
The Reds currently sit top of the table and are unbeaten in their last 11 league games, however recent injuries have made life slightly more difficult than expected in recent weeks.
Life isn’t quite so rosy in the north east. Newcastle sit 14th and could jump up a few places with a shock victory, but fans remain displeased with Steve Bruce and his lack of offensive ambition as head coach.
Here’s 90min‘s preview of the clash
When is Kick Off? Tuesday 29 December
What Time is Kick Off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it Played? St. James’ Park
TV Channel/Live Stream? Amazon Prime Video
Referee? Paul Tierney
Liverpool have just appointed Dr Andreas Schlumberger as their new head of recovery and performance, which tells you all you need to know about the hectic fixture schedule and the Reds’ injury concerns.
Long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain out of action, while Joel Matip is also likely to be unavailable having come off injured during the 1-1 draw with West Brom. Rhy Williams looks set to deputise for Matip.
Neco Williams may also earn a start as Jurgen Klopp rotates to keep his squad fresh. James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Thiago Alcantara have all returned to training for the Reds and could thus feature, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also pushing to start.
For Newcastle, Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles remain unavailable as they continue to feel the effects of testing positive for COVID-19.
Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka is still nursing a long-term injury, and both Jonjo Shelvey and Ryan Fraser are doubtful.
Otherwise, Bruce has a full squad to choose from.
Newcastle: Darlow; Krafth, Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Lewis; Murphy, M. Longstaff, Hayden, Joelinton; Wilson.
Liverpool: Alisson; N. Williams, R. Williams, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
The Magpies find themselves in a rut having failed to win any of their last four games in all competitions.
Creativity remains a serious issue and with Saint-Maximin still out due to COVID-19, that doesn’t seem like changing any time soon. Bruce still doesn’t know how to get the best out of Miguel Almiron, either, meaning it’s all on Callum Wilson to come up with the goods.
Wilson is the only player to have bagged in any of their last three games and leads the scoring charts at the club with eight goals in 14 appearances, and will no doubt be expected to produce again despite limited service against the champions.
Liverpool were shockingly held to a draw by a West Brom side now managed by none other than Sam Allardyce at the weekend. Sadio Mane‘s first half strike wasn’t enough and failure to take chances saw them slump to a 1-1 draw at Anfield.
Here’s how each side has fared in their last five games.
Manchester City 2-0 Newcastle (26/12)
Brentford 1-0 Newcastle (22/12)
Newcastle 1-1 Fulham (19/12)
Leeds United 5-2 Newcastle (16/12)
Newcastle 2-1 West Brom (12/12)
Liverpool 1-1 West Brom (27/12)
Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool (19/12)
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham (16/12)
Fulham 1-1 Liverpool (13/12)
Midtjylland 1-1 Liverpool (9/12)
A statement performance against the Reds would do wonders to boost spirits among Newcastle players and supporters.
But considering how good Liverpool are that seems…well…unlikely.
Buckle in, Newcastle fans, because it’s likely going to be a long evening.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-3 Liverpool