In the lead-up to any modern-day Newcastle v Liverpool encounter, it’s rare that anything other than famous seven-goal thrillers provide the topic of conversation.
Whether it’s Stan Collymore hammering in from a tight angle or Kevin Keegan slumping over advertising hoardings, the media rarely tires of referencing and replaying these iconic moments.
That’s not so much been the case this week, however. Instead, while the two sides find themselves once again vying with each other for a European spot, the headlines have focused on their contrasting methods in the transfer market rather than any classic nineties battles.
While Liverpool’s “Best of British” policy has seen them spend tens of millions on underwhelming youngsters such as Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, Newcastle have largely purged their side of any native players and instead opted to bring in cheaper foreign imports, including the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Check Tiote and their impressive Senegalese strikers, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.
A quick glance at the table shows that it’s the latter policy that has reaped the most immediate rewards – though Liverpool fans may well disagree come the end of the season should they find themselves two domestic trophies better off.
Yet even the most optimistic Red would struggle to see how Liverpool can overhaul the eight-point gap that separates themselves in seventh with the Geordies in sixth. For them to have any chance to do that, they must win at the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
But it is Newcastle (17/10 to win) who are the team in form. Their slick 3-1 win at West Brom last week was their sixth win this calendar year, while Liverpool (6/4) boast only two league wins in the same time and come in on the back of two consecutive losses – to relegation strugglers Wigan and QPR respectively.
Crucially, however, Newcastle will be without their influential skipper Fabricio Coloccini, who tore his hamstring at the Hawthorns last week, which will leave Mike Williamson and James Perch as the home side’s relatively untested and inexperienced centre-backs.
It’s a bad game to lose your best defender – this game has a history of goals. The winning side have scored a minimum of three goals in the last seven league meetings. It’s 10/11 for there to be 2-3 goals in the game this time round.
And Williamson has had a tough time of it of late, giving away a silly penalty at home to Sunderland and also gifting Shane Long his goal last week. With many of the headlines this week mentioning that former Newcastle man Andy Carroll cost Liverpool £10m more than Newcastle’s whole squad, the big striker will be returning to his old ground with a point to prove.
Despite registering just eight goals in 47 appearances, the age-old footballing law of scoring against former sides, added to Coloccini’s absence, might make it the best time to back him at 5/1.