Wobbly Liverpool face stern test

It would be good to see Endo (right) start, after giving a good account of himself on his debut (seen here) against Bournemouth last weekend. — AFP

IF THERE are any takeaways from the win over Bournemouth last week, it is that there is still much work to be done for Liverpool.

With a new midfield that is completely different from last season’s, the team is still a work in progress but one that is full of promise.

New signings Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai have certainly shown that they have the qualities to take the team forward with their talents.

Having been put in the number six position, Mac Allister, primarily an attacking midfielder, was able to hold his own while Szosboszlai was just as impressive with his energy, runs and touches.

Even Wataru Endo, who was signed a few days earlier before the match against Bournemouth and thrown onto the pitch in the second half after Mac Allister’s red card, gave a good account of himself.

Defensively, the way the Reds conceded the first goal against the Cherries and an earlier effort from Jaidon Anthony that was disallowed was quite shocking.

Liverpool also looked nervous and not in sync during the earlier part of the game, particularly Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was guilty in both incidents.

But having won the match 3-1 in the end and coming back from a goal down, it definitely shows that this Liverpool side can still be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Liverpool are in search of more defensive cover, including a defensive midfielder, and will hopefully be able to sign a left-sided centre-back before the transfer market closes.

But it would seem unlikely that any new signings can be made before Juergen Klopp’s men travel to St James’ Park for the match against Newcastle United this weekend.

But what is certain is that Liverpool’s panel of attackers can still be a frightening sight for any opposition.

Be it the likes of Luis Diaz or Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota, they can prove to be a handful for any defence.

And all three are expected to be in the starting line-up against the Magpies.

Diaz, who scored two goals in two matches so far, had an injury scare during the match against Bournemouth but was pictured training in midweek and this will be a huge relief for Klopp.

The Colombian, who suffered a serious injury last season that saw him miss the majority of the games, will hopefully remain fit this time around and compete on all fronts.

Against Eddie Howe’s team, Klopp could either opt to go with the same line-up to allow Endo more time to settle in or to give the Japanese national team captain his first start at the expense of Cody Gakpo.

If he does start, the 30-year-old will most likely play alongside Szoboszlai and Mac Allister, who is available to face Newcastle after his red card that was shown during the match against Bournemouth was rescinded.

Both Endo and Mac Allister will provide more protection for the defenders and control in midfield while allowing Szoboszlai more room to venture forward.

Newcastle, on the other hand, will be out to redeem themselves after losing 1-0 to league champions Manchester City last week.

Having thrashed Aston Villa 5-1 in their first match of the season, the Tynesiders did not follow it up with a similar performance and were outplayed by City, which had just won the Uefa Super Cup days earlier.

Newcastle just could not impose themselves against a superior City side and only managed to get one out of seven shots on target.

Howe will be hopeful to have Joelinton, who had limped out after the match against City, fit for the clash with Liverpool.

The Brazilian has formed quite a partnership with Bruno Guimaraes in midfield, with both having played a massive role in the upturn of fortunes for Newcastle last season.

New signing Sandro Tonali, who scored on his debut against Villa, also did not play well and clearly needs more time to adjust with his teammates.

It is likely that Howe will set out a similar 4-3-3 formation as they had in their last two matches, with Elliot Anderson or Sean Longstaff to replace Joelinton in case he does miss the match.

Alexander Isak, who has impressed for Newcastle since he signed from Real Sociedad in 2022, will be expected to lead the line with Miguel Almiron and Anthony Gordon.

The back four will most likely remain unchanged with Kieran Trippier captaining the side, alongside Fabian Schar, Sven Botman and Dan Burn, and with Nick Pope in goal.

Newcastle had the best defence last season, conceding only 33 times in all 38 games, which was the same as City.

However, they lost twice to Liverpool, including a 2-0 defeat at home last season.

Also worth noting is that Newcastle last beat the Reds in 2015 and they will surely want to take advantage of Liverpool’s recent defensive frailties to change that.

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