How Liverpool can exploit Newcastle’s “outnumbered” midfield on final day

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Liverpool finish off an incredible 2019/20 season away to Newcastle on Sunday, but how has the campaign been viewed from a Magpie’s perspective?

The Reds enjoyed an evening to treasure on Wednesday, beating Chelsea 5-3 and lifting the Premier League trophy on the Kop.

It has been the best season at Anfield for at least 30 years, with Jurgen Klopp‘s champions amassing 96 points on their way to title glory.

Liverpool will complete their campaign with a trip to Newcastle this weekend, amid talk of a takeover at St James’ Park and uncertainty surrounding Steve Bruce’s future.

Ahead of the game, we caught up with football journalist Harry Bartlett (@HarryBartlett92) to hear all about Newcastle’s campaign and Sunday’s meeting.

 

How would you assess Newcastle‘s season overall?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 14, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates scoring the third goal as Newcastle United's Paul Dummett looks dejected during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As a fan, it has been a tough season.

The football has been shocking at times and the points we have gained and the position we find ourselves in really does mask how poor we have been at times.

From the owner’s perspective, it has been a great season—surviving once again on a limited budget. While Mike Ashley remains at the club, there is no ambition to do anything but survive in the Premier League.

As fans, we don’t expect to be winning trophies—insert your own joke here—but we expect the club to want to be the best it can and this clearly hasn’t happened at any point under Ashley.

 

What’s your view on the potential takeover of the club?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 4, 2019: A general view of Newcastle United's St James' Park ahead of the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The club is desperate for a new, ambitious owner and there is a lot of talk of Newcastle fans being happy to ignore the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.

In my opinion, the majority of supporters are desperate to see the back of Ashley, but also have serious reservations about the potential new owners.

The way the club has been left in limbo by the FA is also a disgrace. People are losing their jobs at the club because we essentially don’t have anyone running the show at the moment.

The FA need to make a decision around the fit and proper owner’s test so the club can prepare for the new season.

 

Is Steve Bruce the right man for the job moving forward?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 14, 2019: Newcastle United's manager Steve Bruce during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Absolutely not.

He might be the right man for Ashley because he is cheap, but could you name me another team in the league who would take Steve Bruce as their manager?

I actually think he is a nice bloke, and in fairness, he has achieved what was asked of him by staying up this season, but another year of Bruce is an admission that 17th in the table is the target for next season.

I can’t believe the number of pundits queuing up to say what a great job he has done, and that he’s been better than Rafa Benitez. They obviously haven’t been watching much of us this season.

 

Who have been Newcastle’s best, and worst, performers this season?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 4, 2019: Newcastle United's goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka reacts during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Allan Saint-Maximin has been an absolute joy to watch. He is the first player we have had in a while who can get the fans off their seats (or sofas more recently) and he makes a huge difference to the team.

Isaac Hayden has been excellent this season, too, and without Martin Dubravka we would likely be in the bottom three.

Although not our worst player, Fabian Schar has been disappointing this season after a great first year at the club, and Joelinton really hasn’t lived up to his price tag.

The service he has received has been poor to say the least, but he doesn’t look like a No. 9.

 

Where does this Liverpool side rank among the best you’ve seen?

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lifts the Premier League Trophy following the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. (Paul Ellis/PA Wire/PA Images)

This Liverpool team has been fantastic for two years now and are hugely unlucky to come up against a fabulous Man City team last season.

To be a ranked as one of the greatest teams, they need to carry on winning trophies over the next few years, but with most of the team in their prime, you cannot see them going backwards under Jurgen Klopp.

I genuinely hope for you guys that they reach the heights of the Liverpool teams from the 1970s and 1980s.

 

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, who do you fear most for the Reds?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It depends on how we approach the game.

If we sit back as we did against Man City in the FA Cup, and complete a total of 15 passes in the first 30 minutes, then I fear everyone!

In reality, we have nothing to lose, so I would like to think we will try and make a game of it, but obviously the front three are a threat.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Mohamed Salah still fancies the Golden Boot!

I think Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson can cause us all sorts of problems with the way they get forward.

 

Where will the key battles take place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Naby Keita celebrates scoring the first goal with team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think central midfield will be where the game is won.

For the majority of the season, we have only played two in the middle, even when playing three at the back, so I think you will outnumber us there and have a pretty comfortable afternoon.

 

Finally, hit us with your prediction…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 22, 2020: Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring the fourth goal with team-mates during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Newcastle 0-2 Liverpool.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is now available to pre-order exclusively on This Is Anfield — now completed with the Premier League trophy lift!

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