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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Liverpool may break Newcastle's resolve in the second half

Reds hoping to reclaim second place

Liverpool have been scoring goals for fun
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BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday

The big freeze has taken its toll on Saturday's fixture list but Liverpool will hope their Premier League match with Newcastle goes ahead so they can reclaim second place.

Only three points will satisfy Jurgen Klopp, who knows there is still minimal room for error in the quest for Champions League qualification.

But his team may have to show some patience against Newcastle, who have decent record against the Reds in recent years, winning two, drawing two and losing one of the last five meetings.

Magpies boss Rafa Benitez knows better than most how Liverpool like to play and he nullified them pretty effectively in October's 1-1 draw at St James' Park.

Newcastle sat deep for much of the game, denying Liverpool space to run in behind their defence, and it needed a brilliant long-range strike from Philippe Coutinho to break the deadlock.

The Magpies fought back with a fortuitous Joselu equaliser on the stroke of half-time and dealt fairly comfortably with Liverpool's second-half onslaught.

Their tactics will be broadly similar and it will be up to Liverpool to find the moment of magic to open up the game and bring Newcastle out of their shell.

When Liverpool get in front they can quickly take the game away from opponents because there is generally more room for Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to utilise their blistering pace.

But it can take them a while to get going. Of Liverpool's 31 Premier League home goals this season, only ten have been scored in the first half.

Didi Hamann: Rafa Benitez can make things awkward on Anfield return

The lack of early potency has had an impact on half-time full-time wagers with the Liverpool-Liverpool double result copping just four times in 14 home league games.

And there is the potential for another slow burner against Newcastle, who have a habit of putting up much stiffer resistance in the first 45 minutes than in the second.

Since Christmas Day Newcastle have conceded just one first-half goal in nine league fixtures, two of which were against Manchester City.

Their ability to stay in games is largely down to the tactical acumen of Benitez but the players often struggle to see the job in the later stages of games when mental and physical tiredness comes into play.

Last Saturday was a perfect example with Newcastle leading 2-0 at Bournemouth before conceding in the 80th and 89th minutes and throwing away two precious points.

Premier League previews

Burnley v Everton

Tottenham v Huddersfield

Leicester v Bournemouth

Swansea v West Ham

Watford v West Brom

Southampton v Stoke

That result has left them just two points above the drop zone and their run-in, which features four matches against big-six teams, doesn't look the best.

Anything they can take out of those four games would be a bonus but the trip to Anfield looks the toughest of the lot and it will be difficult to keep Liverpool at bay for 90 minutes.

Liverpool have no need to think too deeply about next Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Porto as they lead the tie 5-0 and they should eventually make a breakthrough and seal their 17th league win of the campaign.

Draw-Liverpool double result
1pt 37-10 188Bet

Premier League standings

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Team news
Georginio Wijnaldum and Danny Ings (both illness) are available. Nathaniel Clyne (back) is sidelined.

Dwight Gayle (hamstring) has returned to training but Jonjo Shelvey (knee) joins Islam Slimani and Jesus Gamez on the sidelines.

Key stat
Newcastle have kept a first-half clean sheet in eight of their last nine Premier League matches.

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Since Christmas Day Newcastle have conceded just one first-half goal in nine league fixtures, two of which were against Manchester City
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