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After their midweek thumping at the hands of a Messi-inspired Barcelona, there is a real chance that Liverpool’s fine season could end trophy-less.
With Man City leading the Premier League by a single point, the Reds’ crowded-looking programme, which includes the two-legged Champions League semi-final against Barca, is threatening to become a hinderance as the season reaches crunch time.
City by contrast, having been dumped out of the Champions League by Tottenham at the quarter-final stage, have fewer distractions, with their FA Cup final against Watford not taking place until the Premier League season has finished.
Even this weekend, City have the luxury of waiting until Monday night for their penultimate game of the league season, whereas Liverpool’s game at Newcastle takes places 48 hours sooner – designed of course to give them time to prepare for the Barca second leg.
TOP TIP! – Newcastle & Liverpool to draw 2-2 @ 25/1 26.00 +2500 25.00 25.00 -0.04 / Perez as anytime scorer @ 9/2 5.50 +450 4.50 4.50 -0.22
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In terms of the Premier League, the cards are falling in City’s favour and there’s no doubting that on paper Liverpool’s trip to Newcastle looks more challenging than City’s home game with Leicester City.
Ironically, a few weeks ago, when the respective run-ins were being compared, Liverpool’s trip to St James’ Park was flagged up by some City fans as a chance for Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez to do his old club a favour – which was never likely – but as it has transpired, it now looks to be a considerable hurdle for the Reds and their title ambitions.
In fact, a win for the Magpies would effectively end their challenge, which is ridiculous when you consider Liverpool have, to date, lost just one league game all season.
All of which adds up to a tricky evening on Tyneside for Klopp’s men who, despite playing well in the Camp Nou, suffered a 3-0 defeat – their heaviest of the season – and who now must lift themselves for one final Premier League push.
The Toon are not ideal opponents in the circumstances and history between the two clubs, dating back to the Kevin Keegan Newcastle years, means the home crowd would love nothing more than to put the final nail in the coffin of Liverpool’s title chances.
Also, with Newcastle safe from the threat of relegation, Benitez’s men – who have won two out of their last three games – will be in confident mood and will be free to play with the shackles off.
Yet, the Red machine shows no sign of letting up and they go into the match off the back of a seven-match winning streak in the league; a phenomenal effort when the pressure has been well and truly on. They’ll not be rolling over and will be determined to make City ‘serve it out’ on the final day of the season.
Interestingly, Newcastle have a good record in this fixture and have only lost one of their last seven league encounters with Liverpool at St James’ Park, with last season’s finishing 1-1.
In terms of team news for the Toon, Ayoze Perez and Jamaal Lascelles will hope to play after shaking off injury and illness, but Miguel Almiron, Sean Longstaff and Florian Lejeune are all out for the rest of the season.
For Liverpool, Naby Keita is a doubt after going off injured in the defeat in Barcelona, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino are both fit again and will hope to figure in Klopp’s plans.
We can see the Magpies making this a battle, especially after having won six of the last seven in front of their own fans and having scored two goals or more in each of those wins. They have some good home form on their side.
The bookies are emphatic in their belief that Liverpool will continue their winning run, but we happen to think the impact of the midweek defeat in Barcelona, not to mention the physical and mental toll, will produce a surprise result.
Equally, we think the fighting qualities of Klopp’s men will see them get something from the game and so the 2-2 on offer at 25/1 26.00 +2500 25.00 25.00 -0.04 looks terrific value; so too does Ayoze Perez as anytime goalscorer at 9/2 5.50 +450 4.50 4.50 -0.22 .
TOP TIP! – Man City to win 2-0 @ 8/1 9.00 +800 8.00 8.00 -0.13 / Bernardo Silva as first goalscorer @ 9/1 10.00 +900 9.00 9.00 -0.11
City’s imperious march to their second successive title shows no sign of abating and they have the added advantage of knowing the Liverpool result by the time they kick off against Leicester.
Guardiola has also spoken of the advantage of not having the distraction of the Champions League to contend with, and their scrappy 1-0 win at Burnley last weekend – courtesy of Sergio Aguero’s decisive strike – was just the type of win that wins titles.
After comfortably romping home by 19 points last season, this one will be harder earned if they do eventually get across the line and will be arguably their biggest title win to date, especially considering Liverpool have only lost one game.
Leicester meanwhile will head to the Etihad in confident mood after clocking up an impressive six wins in nine games since the appointment of Brendan Rodgers, who will be keen to do his former club Liverpool a favour.
We can’t see it happening though, and with so much at stake it’s almost impossible to see Guardiola’s men dropping points. Leicester won’t cave in, Rodgers will see to that, but we can see a comfortable 2-0 win for Man City, which is on offer at a reasonable 8/1 9.00 +800 8.00 8.00 -0.13 .
In terms of first goalscorer, Bernardo Silva has been in fine form of late and has found himself in plenty of goalscoring positions, so at 9/1 10.00 +900 9.00 9.00 -0.11 he is well worth a bet.
TOP TIP! – Bournemouth to win 2-1 @ 14/1 15.00 +1400 14.00 14.00 -0.07 / King as anytime goalscorer @ 12/5 3.40 +240 2.40 2.40 -0.42
Spurs’ 1-0 midweek defeat in the Champions League semi-final at home to Ajax was their second consecutive defeat in their new stadium and was a culmination of a difficult few weeks for the north London club.
But despite there being plenty signs of mental and physical fatigue in the Spurs’ ranks, they still sit in third place in the battle for the remaining two Champions League places and will be keen not to drop points on the south coast.
Yet, with injuries hitting Pochettino’s squad hard – the loss of Harry Kane in particular – and the second leg in Amsterdam just a few days away, there is every chance Pochettino will play a weakened side, which will play into the hands of Eddie Howe and his men.
Given Bournemouth’s impressive home form, we can see more than a chink of light here for the Cherries, in fact we can see a narrow home win, with the 2-1 on offer at 14/1 15.00 +1400 14.00 14.00 -0.07 looking particularly enticing. Consider too Bournemouth’s Josh King as anytime goalscorer at a very reasonable 12/5 3.40 +240 2.40 2.40 -0.42 .
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