Absolutely no surprise at all to find that Fernando Torres makes a swift return to the side after missing Monday’s 3-0 win against Gerard Houllier’s lacklustre Aston Villa side. Nando was on paternity leave, his wife about to give birth to their son Leo.
The player who replaced him for that fixture makes way tonight, Ryan Babel dropping down to the bench. Other than that the team is unchanged. Pepe Reina is in goal and captains the side tonight, Raul Meireles and Lucas continue their impressive partnership in central midfield.
Newcastle fans staged a protest before kick-off, showing their outrage at owner Mike Ashley’s complete disregard for their feelings with his decision to sack Chris Hughton. Alan Pardew takes charge for the first time and names former Liverpool youth midfielder Danny Guthrie amongst his subs. Scouser Kevin Nolan makes a return from injury for the Geordies.
The referee tonight is Lee Mason, the man who sent two of Liverpool’s players off, including Jamie Carragher, when an already depleted Liverpool side lost 3-1 away to Roy Hodgson’s Fulham last season. Whether he plans to make himself the star of the show tonight remains to be seen, but with the sideshow put on by Mike Ashley he may have his work cut out if he does.
Pardew may be under pressure tonight due to his unpopularity with supporters, but Roy Hodgson will be too if he fails to win. His record of 13 just away wins in the Premier League in his entire management career means a victory would be a rarity for the former Blackburn manager, himself an extremely unpopular appointment with fans.
A win however, and a win achieved through positive football, would be a boost to Liverpool as the festive fixture list looms large.