Rafa hopes to bring his old side Liverpool back down to earth


Boxing Day football is already among us as Liverpool host Newcastle, where former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez will be in the opposing dugout, hoping to derail their title plans.

Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the table with a win at Wolves, as Manchester City faltered at home, losing 3-2 to lowly Crystal Palace.

Newcastle meanwhile sit top of the tree in the relegation mini-league. November saw Benitez earn manager of the month as they pulled away from the drop zone.

That win against Wolves for Jurgen Klopp’s side was an impressive victory, negotiating a tricky fixture, one where other top sides have dropped points. But the superb Virgil Van Dijk guided his side to victory, marshaling the defence with authority and getting on the score sheet himself.

Newcastle come off the back of a bore draw with bottom side Fulham, where they failed to muster a shot on target to even test the Cottagers’ goalkeeper.

Klopp will be hoping Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold both return from slight injuries to take part in the festive fixture, whilst Joel Matip and Joe Gomez join Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the long term absentee list.

Newcastle’s injury list leaves them slightly short of depth at the back, both Ciaran Clark and Florian Lejuene are doubts for the game. Keeper Karl Darlow may be back to fitness but midfield maestro Jonjo Shelvey misses out until the new year.

Newcastle last came out on top in this fixture in 2015, Steve McLaren was then in charge of the Magpies, now Liverpool play Gini Wijnaldum getting on the scoresheet. In fact, the Toon Army have failed to win at Anfield since 1994, winning just four points over that period, so history falls on Klopp’s side.

Goals are a problem for Newcastle, with Joselu and Rondon struggling to find any run of goalscoring form, whilst the defensive solidity of Van Dijk and co will only add more concern for the strikers.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has finally hit some form, his tally for the season now up to 11, whilst Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, both continue to pose a threat going forward.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle


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