Preview: Newcastle United vs. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool have won seven of the last 10 meetings (7-2-1)
  • Newcastle’s last 12 league goals have all been scored by Frenchman
  • Steven Gerrard is one away from recording 100 PL goals

On Saturday at St. James’ Park, two sides who’ve produced plenty of memorable Premier League moments over the years will lock horns as Newcastle host Liverpool. (7:30am ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra)

Can another PL classic prevail? We certainly hope so.

And following Liverpool’s huge victory over Newcastle last season — the Reds 6-0 win was United’s worst home defeat since 1925 — revenge is in the air for Alan Pardew’s men.

After an up and down start to the season, the Magpies are certainly looking a lot more settled this year after struggling to avoid relegation last time out. But there’s still plenty of unrest surrounding the club, with supporters set to protest against owner Mike Ashley before the game and wave white handkerchiefs to show their displeasure at the way Newcastle is being run.

source: Reuters
S.A.S. have been a mean double act in the past few games. Can they keep it going?

But on the pitch, a 2-1 win away at Cardiff last time out has elevated the Magpies to 11th and a win against Liverpool could take them into the top five. Loic Remy has five PL goals so far this season, and the Frenchman is looking cool and composed up front to wreck havoc. However, Newcastle have only recorded one win in their last 10 league games against Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers’ side are looking fired up this season.

With Luis Suarez returning to form a marvelous forward partnership with Daniel Sturridge, the Reds finally have a duo that can tear the opposition apart in a split second. And with a solid 3-5-2 system suiting the possession-based style Rodgers prefers, Liverpool are looking comfortable and expansive this campaign. Expect an exciting clash, as always, when these two meet. There hasn’t been a goalless draw since 1974 between these two teams, and don’t expect one on Saturday.

In terms of injuries, Newcastle have a few concerns with defenders Steven Taylor and Fabio Coloccini missing out through injury, while Jonas Gutierrez is out due to family issues. For Liverpool, the trio of Joe Allen, Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho could all return and Lucas Leiva is back from a ban.

What they’re saying

Alan Pardew on Newcastle’s demoralizing 6-0 defeat to Liverpool last season: “Psychologically it’s a completely different place to where we were. We’re in a much better place now and we’ll give a better account of ourselves. It was probably my heaviest defeat as a manager. It’s a game you don’t ever want to experience but it happens sometimes in a season. You have to make sure it doesn’t happen again and try to build yourself up.”

Daniel Sturridge on his partnership with Luis Suarez: “It’s a beautiful thing to have the relationship on the field with him. We have a good understanding, have assisted each other on different occasions and it’s a great feeling. We help each other and improve each other and we also get along off the field. At the end of the day, it’s just important that we’re doing the business for the team. And we wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t for everyone behind us. Victor [Moses], Jordan [Henderson] and Coutinho when he returns and everyone behind them have been fantastic.”

Prediction

After several 4-3 thrillers across the years and plenty of classic PL encounters, here’s hoping we see another at St. James’ Park on Saturday. With Liverpool looking very solid at the back and relying on Sturridge and Suarez to score the goals, this may be less of an open affair, however you never know with this fixture. Remy and Sturridge are the PL’s top two scorers, so if they’re on fire all hell will break loose. I’m going for another entertaining Liverpool win, but Newcastle will push them all the way. The Reds’ front two will be the difference, once again.

Herrera: Ibrahimovic competitive drive insatiable in everything

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Ander Herrera is dishing the goods on his Manchester United teammates while on Spain duty this week, and was asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede is a fierce competitor on and off the pitch, which Herrera jokes is an ever-present challenge to personal patience.

[ MORE: Deulofeu laments early Messi talk ]

It almost seems like there’s a bit of envy that Ibrahimovic can charge into public comments the way Herrera goes into tackles.

From Marca:

“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.

“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”

There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).

We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.

Gerard Deulofeu calls early Messi comparisons “detrimental”

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Players often like to brush off speculation or criticism in the moment by claiming they don’t read stories written about themselves, but we all know better.

Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu confirmed that sentiment by citing specific comparisons he remembers as a youth with Barcelona, citing stories that compared him to Lionel Messi. Now 23 years old, Deulofeu reflects on those early comparisons and wishes the media wasn’t so quick to jump to conclusions about his career.

“In the end, [the comparisons] were more detrimental than beneficial,” he told weekly magazine Forza Milan. “Normally I don’t read newspapers, but that headline I remember well. It created too much expectation among Barcelona fans. There’s only one Messi.”

With expectations high, Deulofeu made just six senior team appearances without a goal or assist before loan spells at Sevilla and Everton saw him out of the club permanently. His time at Goodison Park was up and down as well, with his ability to dazzle a crowd punctuated by long spells of invisibility, failing to earn himself a consistent starting role.

Deulofeu is now on loan from Everton at AC Milan, looking to revitalize his career. He has started every league game since arriving, and has picked up a goal and three assists in 11 matches. There is speculation he could end up in Milan on a permanent basis this summer, but he’s not focused on that right now.

“My future? It’ll be seen to,” Deulofeu said. “My sights are in the present, from experience I know it’s best to leave the past behind and focus on the present. We’ll see what happens in the future. For now, I just want to enjoy the good time that I‘m having at Milan.”

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)