Acid test for resurgent Newcastle

Newcastle defender Dan Burn will have his hands full trying to thwart Liverpool's forwards today. AFP

FROM the despair of propping up the league in the relegation zone, Newcastle United have climbed to ninth in the standings and all but assured their safety.

Much of this was borne of the £90mil (about RM490mil) spent by their Saudi Arabian-led owners on new signings in January. But most of it has been down to the tact and football acumen of Eddie Howe’s application in coaching and management.

The Magpies, though, are in for a real acid test over the next eight days when they come face to face with Liverpool this evening and then Manchester City next weekend.

When St James Park lights up for the arrival of the Reds today, Newcastle will boast of having won four games in a row – no mean achievement amid the comings and goings of today’s Premiership.

And such is the good-feel factor swirling around St James Park that they will believe they can take on the Reds, put them to the sword and with a bit of good fortune, beat Jurgen Klopp’s rampant side. But it will be a tough ask.

There is no saying that Newcastle cannot beat the Reds. Indeed, they can and may well do so. But Liverpool, who moved one step closer to the Champions League final with a polished and comfortable victory over Villarreal in midweek and remain a single point behind leaders Manchester City in the race for the English league title, know that they cannot slip up now if they are to retain their bid for an unprecedented quadruple.

They are also through to the final of the FA Cup against Chelsea next month and won the Carabao League Cup in February.

Klopp may rotate a few of his players for the visit to Tyneside, but in the main, should keep the spine of the squad in his starting XI. This would include Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

This lot, and a handful of the supporting act, should do well enough to see off Newcastle.

However, in Dan Burn and Matt Targett, who both moved to St James Park in January, solidifying their defence, Newcastle may not be that easy to break down.

Midfielder Bruno Guimaraes has also made his presence felt, as has his Brazilian compatriot and striker Joelinton, who alongside Chris Wood, could pose a real threat to Liverpool.

Indeed, if Newcastle can come through this week’s test with their chins held high, it would cap a fine turn around for the side that was struggling in a relegation battle not too long ago.

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