Is the clock ticking for Keita? Newcastle vs Liverpool (Talking points, predictions and line-up)

Liverpool will be hoping to end an unprecedented year of football with a bang as they talk on Newcastle United at St James' Park in the final league game of 2020.

The Reds' disappointing second-half showing against West Brom meant that the points were shared on Sunday; only the second time Jurgen Klopp's side dropped league points at Anfield in almost two years.

Despite the discouraging performance, Liverpool still remain three points clear at the top of the table and can enter the new year top of the pile with a good performance against the Magpies.

1. Tick tock... clock is ticking for the pair

matip and keita in training
Image Source: Liverpool Echo

Naby Keita has officially taken over the undesirable title of the most injury-prone player ever in recent times from Daniel Sturridge, after picking up yet another muscle injury. It is not known yet the duration the Guinean international will be ruled out for, but it is surely a certainty now that the Reds cannot count on the 25-year-old midfielder.

Keita enjoyed one of his better performances in a red shirt in the 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace — even featuring for the entire 90 minutes, giving fans a much-needed lease of renewed optimism on his future at the club.

But the latest injury meant that it is likely he had spent more time in the treatment room than on the pitch, racking up just 50 appearances for the Reds since his arrival in July 2018.

And coming in second in this unwanted crown is Joel Matip — who on his day, is undoubtedly one of the finest defenders in the league.

Unfortunately for the Reds, those days do not happen very often as he spends most of his time on the treatment table. The injury-prone Cameroon international picked up his latest injury against West Brom, one that will likely rule him out for the majority of the season.

Fabinho, a holding midfielder, will be the only fit senior player now at the heart of the defence; an issue that might force Klopp to dip his hands in the upcoming transfer market.

Time is ticking fast for both the players to prove that they have a future at Anfield, especially the former — whose early promise is fizzling out with each new injury setback.

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2. Will the front three get a much-needed break?

Image Source: Liverpool FC

Despite the kinder fixtures compared to the other teams, Klopp will no doubt have to utilize his entire squad as the games pile up during this festive season. It will be interesting to see if the German chooses to give one of the front three — who all started against the Baggies — a break, giving the likes of Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi a chance to start.

The Japanese international broke his Premier League duck with a well-taken goal against Palace, and will be hoping to build on that. Capable of playing anywhere across the front three; will we see Minamino start once again ahead of Salah — the Egpytian who has yet to put in a convincing performance in recent weeks?

3. Williams or Phillips?

Image Source: Rousing the Kop

Another decision to make for Klopp, this time at the heart of the defence. Matip's early withdrawal against West Brom led to the introduction of young Rhys Williams, making only his second league appearance.

Williams was given the nod ahead of Nathaniel Phillips, who has impressed each time he was given a chance. The 19-year-old will be hoping to start his second Premier League game against the Magpies, but the contention for the spot alongside Fabinho will surely provide healthy competition for both of the young defenders.

Score Prediction: Newcastle 0-3 Liverpool

Steve Bruce's side has struggled to keep a clean sheet the whole season, and the Reds will be hoping to bounce back with a stronger performance. With the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin all doubts, it will be an uphill task for the Magpies to find a breakthrough in the game, and Klopp's team should have enough quality to see it through.

Predicted Line-up

Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Rhys Williams, Fabinho, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Firmino, Salah


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