A year ago, a match between Newcastle and Liverpool would have been an exciting affair betwee two top-eight teams in the league. This year, Liverpool will come into the game in seventh place, but Newcastle will be fighting just to avoid relegation.
Newcastle is currently 16th in the table and just six points clear of 18th-placed Wigan (which has a game in hand). Whereas the Magpies were fighting to reach the Champions League last season, this year they are fighting to remain in the Premier League in 2013.
Liverpool has its own issues, of course, stemming from the 10-match ban handed to Luis Suarez, far and away the team's best player this season. While speculation will run rampant in the coming days and months whether this will lead to the end of his tenure at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers and company will be wondering where the goals will come from now.
Two teams in turmoil; one game on Saturday.
These teams tied 1-1 in November—will we see a similar outcome this weekend?
When: Saturday April 27 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: St James' Park, Newcastle, England
Watch: FOX Soccer
Streaming: FOX Soccer 2Go
What They're Saying
The biggest storyline heading into this game for either side is the 10-match ban recently handed down to Luis Suarez after he was caught on film biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic this weekend. The length of the ban has many people up in arms, including Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said he was shocked by the length of the suspension, and that sentiment has been echoed by Spain international Reina.
"I consider myself a friend of Luis. He is being treated differently, I don't know if it's because he's Uruguayan or because he's had a previous episode like this," Reina told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope.
"He knows full well that what he did was wrong, but a ten-game ban seems to me absurd, out of proportion and unfair.
"It seems that the people making the decisions have got it in for Luis a little bit. That's the way I see it. I am not justifying what he did, but the punishment is very disproportionate.
The fact that Suarez was suspended in his Ajax days for biting Otman Bakkal—and last year, was banned for eight games after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra—was, no doubt, a factor in this decision.
His behavior, quite frankly, has been deplorable at times, even if his Liverpool teammates disagree with the length of his suspension.
Newcastle Player to Watch: Papiss Cisse
What happened to the Cisse of last year?
Cisse was amazing upon his arrival in Newcastle last January, scoring 13 goals and adding an assist in just 14 appearances. That's elite production, to say the least.
But he's barely replicated that production in a full season this year, with just 13 goals and two assists in 43 total appearances. When Demba Ba was sold to Chelsea in January, it put an added emphasis on Cisse. Since the departure of his strike partner, Cisse has been better and has scored eight goals for the club since January.
But if Newcastle is to avoid relegation this year, Cisse has to regain his elite form—or at least come close to it—from a season ago. He'll need to show up in a big way against Liverpool.
Liverpool Player to Watch: Daniel Sturridge
With Suarez out for the remainder of the year, the goalscoring impetus now falls on the shoulders of Sturridge.
He's been solid since coming to Liverpool in January, scoring six goals in 12 total appearances for the team, though he's often paired with Suarez in a two-forward formation. Now, he'll likely be the lone forward atop a 4-3-3 scheme and will be asked to take on defenders and find the spaces as Suarez so brilliantly does.
Will he be up to the task? Will Liverpool completely lose its cutting edge in the attacking third without Suarez? Sturridge has questions to answer on Saturday, and Liverpool and its supporters will be hoping the answers are positive.
Suarez has been so valuable this season, it's hard to imagine the team not struggling without him, at least initially. And Newcastle, desperately trying to avoid relegation and always difficult at home, is not going to simply roll over for the Reds.
Look for this one to end in a draw, 1-1.
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