Newcastle v Liverpool: In-form Magpies make handicap appeal

Newcastle's impressive form and Liverpool's hectic schedule make the hosts appeal on the handicap in Saturday lunchtime's Premier League showdown...

The Quadruple is now, potentially, just eight games away for Liverpool but are things about to get a bit tricky?

If the unprecedented feat is to be achieved - and it's now just a 6/1 chance on the Sportsbook - then those eight games will be played across 29 days. It's a brutal schedule.

Klopp's greatest challenge

The biggest challenge manager Jurgen Klopp faces is arguably not related to tactics but actually who plays and when.

The good news is this is now a truly great squad, boasting tremendous strength in depth, but leaving out the wrong player at the wrong time could prove costly in the extreme.

He'll doubtless have been throwing around selection ideas for this game for some time.

The German was genuinely cross when it was scheduled in the Saturday lunchtime slot, although whatever the kick-off time, it was always going to be problematic given the Wednesday-Tuesday turnaround of their Champions League semi-final.

One suspects this is the game Klopp has been concerned about the most, simply due to that packed schedule.

Perhaps the 2-0 home-leg victory over Villarreal in midweek will have altered Klopp's thinking, although despite the Reds' dominance of that game, the job is not yet done.

The likelihood is that Liverpool need to win all five remaining Premier League games if they are to stand a chance of claiming the title so it's hard to envisage wholesale changes, but you'd also imagine the pack will be shuffled with the likes of Joel Matip, Naby Keita, James Milner and Diogo Jota all possible starters at St James' Park.

Klopp's team juggling has been spot on thus far. Twenty of their last 24 games in all competitions have been won, while in the league it's 12 of the last 13 with only title rivals Manchester City having prevented them from winning.

Given their form, Klopp and Liverpool will be confident of victory regardless of their starting XI but this match won't simply be about them.

Newcastle on song

Newcastle are a different side, almost literally, since their 4-0 home chastening at the hands of Man City in December.

Their last 14 games have brought 10 wins and a draw. Of those, six have been at home and each has resulted in victory with only three goals conceded.

In contrast to their opponents, they are well rested having not played since dominating lowly Norwich at Carrow Road last weekend, a game they won 3-0.

Joelinton scored twice that day to again highlight his remarkable upturn under Eddie Howe, while January signing Bruno Guimaraes continued to impress. At the back, Dan Burn has made the defence a much more stable unit.

The hosts may, in reality, have little left to play but as a club with clear ambitions for rapid improvement, I suspect Howe will see this as a real test to see how the Saudi revolution in the north east is actually going.

Maybe it will be a reality check. After all, Newcastle have won only two and lost 11 against sides currently in the top half of the table. Those include a 3-1 loss at Anfield, although Newcastle did lead that day and only an 87th-minute goal finally killed the game.

Handicap option

It's just 1.43 that another defeat is added to that tally with the hosts out at 9.0 to win the game.

But while I'm not prepared to suggest Newcastle are about to beat Liverpool, I do feel that the circumstances outlined above make them appeal on the Asian handicap.

If you back them on the +1.25 line at 2.0, you'll make a profit even if they lose by one goal which I think looks fair.

Liverpool have had to grind out wins over both Everton and Villarreal at Anfield over the past week, both sides shutting up shop effectively for long periods. On each occasion, the Reds' stamina-sapping press was very much needed - another reason to have at least some concerns about fatigue.

Admittedly both ended by up losing by two goals but each game was 0-0 at half time which points towards another potential angle.

Other angles

In the HT/FT market, Draw-Liverpool is up at 4.6 which seems a decent price.

Likewise, if you are convinced Newcastle's defence won't get torn to shreds by the famous Reds attack, then Liverpool to win and under 2.5 goals at 3.85 has potential.

Given the need to preserve energy, it's easy to see Liverpool trying simply to control the game, something they did so well in midweek, rather than pushing on for more goals if they do go ahead.

Those markets appeal more than the shots and cards ones for those putting together a Bet Builder.

Andre Marriner has long been one of the more lenient Premier League referees, while Liverpool players are always priced up very short for shots.

For Newcastle, the likes of Guimaraes and Burn have been profitable shots options in recent weeks but with Liverpool likely to have around 70% of the ball, they are not tempting enough on this occasion.

Opta fact

No player has both scored and assisted in more different Premier League games this season than Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (6). No Liverpool player has ever scored and assisted in seven different games in a single Premier League campaign.

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