The Toon Army are feeling apprehensive ahead of their side’s trip to face a red-hot Liverpool side at Anfield today, but they are refusing to rule out the prospect of pulling off a shock victory on Merseyside.
Newcastle United have been vastly improved in recent weeks, but their Premier League status remains in serious doubt with 10 fixtures left to play this season. Benitez proved that he still has the tactical nous to lead his side to victory over top-four opposition by defeating Manchester United at St. James’ Park at the beginning of February, but the Spaniard faces a very different task today on his return to Anfield.
Benitez’s return to the club where he won his first and only Champions League trophy as a football manager will certainly dominate the pre-match narrative today, but he will be hoping that Dwight Gayle (valued at £9 million by Transfermarkt) can score in back to back league matches for the second time this season and become the focal point of the post-match analysis.
Newcastle go into their clash with Liverpool today on the back of a 2-2 draw against Bournemouth in which they missed a huge opportunity to move 4 points clear of the relegation zone. Gayle had fired the travelling Magpies into a 2 nil lead at half-time, but a late show from The Cherries ensured that the relegation-threatened sides would share the spoils.
The 27-year-old striker has been far from prolific so far this season as his record of 5 goals from 25 appearances suggests. However, 2 of those goals arrived away at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge respectively, so it’s clear he has a habit of finding the back of the net against the league’s strongest opposition. With that being said, Benitez will be banking on him to produce the goods once again today and use his poacher’s instinct to fire Newcastle to a shock victory.
Liverpool’s defenders have shown enough lapses in concentration this season to suggest that Gayle could reap the rewards of his hard-working attitude this afternoon. If and when those chances arrive for Gayle, he must continue his fine form from Bournemouth last week and be clinical in-front of goal to ensure Benitez remembers his return to Anfield for all the right reasons.
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