After an international break that seems to have lasted forever, Newcastle return to Premier League action this weekend with the unenviable visit to Anfield to face Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
It is a daunting task, and with the game being broadcast live on BT Sport as the lunchtime game, Steve Bruce and the fans will hope they can produce a display to match their last televised outing at Spurs three weeks prior.
Despite the anti-climactic draw in the last game at home to Watford, Bruce’s side travel to the European Champions unbeaten in their last two games – three if you discount the penalty shootout defeat in the Carabao Cup.
If we are travelling home on Saturday afternoon with that unbeaten mini-streak still intact, it will be a buoyant journey back across the Pennines for fans.
Liverpool are the only Premier League side with a 100 per cent winning record, and have won their last 13 consecutive league games.
The more optimistic Newcastle fans will suggest that a record like that is surely due to end soon, so why should it not be this Saturday?
Early Team News
Despite hopes that Andy Carroll would be available for the trip to his former club, it has come too soon for the 6ft 4in forward, who is still finding his fitness.
Fellow striker Dwight Gayle is listed as having a chance to return this weekend, but it would be a surprise to see him included in the squad, with him still likely to be absent.
But it is better news for DeAndre Yedlin, with the flying right-back training again, and he could be in contention for a place among the 18.
Liverpool are still without goalkeeper Allison, while Nathaniel Clyne is another long-term absentee.
Midfielder Naby Keita is expected to be available, however, having recovered from a groin injury picked up ahead of the European Super Cup win over Chelsea.
Referee: Andre Marriner
It is the first time the Midlands referee has taken charge of Newcastle this season, although he was in charge of Liverpool’s victory at Southampton during game-week two.
Marriner has shown nine yellow cards in the three games he has officiated so far this campaign, and has brandished no red cards, and not awarded a penalty.
Fans will remember the previous Newcastle game Marriner was in charge of – the Liverpool defeat in the last home game of last season, during which he and the assistant referee fell for what looked like a Fabinho dive, which led to the visitors’ winning goal.
He took charge of Newcastle five times last season, booking four of our players, and six for the opposition. There were no reds brandished, and no penalties awarded.
Points to prove
Newcastle will be out to show that the magnificent performance they gave at Tottenham was not a flash in the pan, and that they can mix it consistently with the top sides in the division.
Miguel Almiron will be hoping to get himself his first Newcastle goal, and silence the doubters who have surfaced recently, as his scoring drought lingers on.
Sean Longstaff will want to show he can return to the levels of last season, and after an international break in which he did not get a sniff of the England squad, he will want to put on a strong enough performance on the big stage to catch the eye of Gareth Southgate.
Liverpool do not really have a point to prove to anyone, with the whole footballing world aware of their ability, but they will want to keep their club record league-win run going in a game they will be expected to win easily.
Jordan Henderson will want to silence the Newcastle fans, who are sure to offer him his annual reminder of his Wearside roots.
Steve Bruce is almost certain to revert to his 5-4-1 formation from the away win at Spurs, which will see the back five, bolstered by a deep midfield, while hoping to utilise Almiron’s pace to sneak a chance or two on the counter-attack.
Jurgen Klopp rarely strays from his trusted 4-3-3 lineup, with the devastating prospect of Mo Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane up front.
It would be a major surprise to see him vary the formation on Saturday, but with many of his players having been on their travels with their international sides, he may switch around his personnel for a game he will expect to win regardless of who he starts.