Liverpool host Newcastle United on New Year’s Day with both sides looking to start 2024 in winning fashion.
Moving to the Premier League’s summit with a Boxing Day triumph over Burnley, Jurgen Klopp’s outfit head into this fixture in excellent form.
The Reds have transformed Anfield into a fortress once again, accumulating 23 points from a possible 27 at home this campaign and they’ve not suffered defeat at their own ground since Crysencio Summerville’s winner for Leeds United in October 2022.
Liverpool will fancy their chances of extending that unbeaten record when they take on a Newcastle side that have suffered from a catalogue of injuries.
Eddie Howe’s depleted squad are experiencing the consequences of their hectic schedule and a Boxing Day defeat to Nottingham Forest was their fourth loss in five league matches.
With the Magpies desperate to stop the rot and Liverpool eager to stay at the top, we take a look at the key battles in an intriguing contest.
The jury was still out on Anthony Gordon when these two sides met in August and by the end of the contest, the winger was lauded for an electrifying performance that exposed Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive frailties.
Gordon was given the licence to target the Liverpool vice-captain in 1v1 situations and from the first minute, the Newcastle man had the better of his opponent.
Receiving an early booking and guilty of ceding possession to Gordon in the build-up to Newcastle’s opening goal, Alexander-Arnold backed off even further and was fortunate not to be sent off.
A lot has happened since then. Gordon remains a shining light for Newcastle having conjured six goals and four assists, while Alexander-Arnold has re-established himself among the Premier League’s elite individuals, demonstrating his exquisite passing range in a hybrid role to give Liverpool an added edge.
Howe will be keen to limit his influence in possession and Gordon’s work rate will be key to restricting Alexander-Arnold’s output.
If Newcastle are to find an outlet in this game, the former Everton academy graduate will need to keep him occupied in the same manner as their last encounter at St James’ Park.
Providing Dan Burn retains his place in Newcastle’s starting XI, his match-up with Mohamed Salah is likely to be a game-defining battle.
Salah continues to operate at a world class level and has once again been the focal point of Liverpool’s success.
12 goals and seven assists in 19 Premier League appearances are evidence of that and if Newcastle are to eek a result, stopping him will be at the top of their agenda.
Fortunately they have a man with past experience of nullifying Salah’s threat.
When Brighton earned their first league win at Anfield for 39 years in February 2021, Burn was instrumental as he consistently thwarted Salah on the flank.
For Newcastle, he’s fared relatively well against Salah when operating in a deep block, asides from the one occasion he was twisted inside and out before being left on his backside.
Klopp will be eager for his side to move the ball out wide early, stretch the legs of Salah and test the resolve of Newcastle's full-backs.
It will be interesting to see if Burn can last longer than the 55 minutes he put in against Nottingham Forest, while Salah is 10/11 to score anytime in the match.
After a scintillating start to his Liverpool career, Dominik Szoboszlai’s form had dipped but the Hungarian midfielder remains an important facet in Klopp’s attacking artillery.
Benched for the trip to Turf Moor, Szoboszlai is expected to return to the Reds starting XI and he will be tasked with picking the lock of Newcastle’s defence.
The Toon midfield has been stretched by a lack of personnel and Bruno Guimaraes’ workload has grown excessive in recent weeks.
As Howe detailed at the start of the month, Guimaraes is ‘at the fulcrum of everything’ for Newcastle and they will need the Brazilian to be at his combative best if they're to wrestle a result from their trip to Merseyside.
Szoboszlai has the ability to exploit spaces with his vision and dribbling but the onus will be on Guimaraes to snuff out the danger and create a base from which Newcastle can attack themselves.