Newcastle 2-3 Liverpool
Goals: Christian Atsu (£5.1m), Salomón Rondón (£5.9m) | Virgil van Dijk (£6.7m), Mohamed Salah (£13.3m), Divock Origi (£5.0m)
Assists: Rondón, Javier Manquillo (£4.3m) | Trent Alexander-Arnold x2 (£5.7m), Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.8m)
Mohamed Salah (£13.3m) owners are now faced with a week of uncertainty as he was taken off with a head injury in Liverpool’s win over Newcastle. After making it six consecutive Gameweeks with attacking returns, the Egyptian was floored in a collision with goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka (£5.0m) and his awkward landing exacerbated the problem. He was down receiving treatment for some time before being taken off the pitch on a stretcher.
Thankfully, there will be regular updates on Salah this week as Liverpool prepare for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final with Barcelona. The corresponding press conference will likely take place on Monday given that the match is scheduled for Tuesday night. Furthermore, we should know more about Salah’s situation after the game depending on the role he plays against Barcelona.
“What I heard, he got the hip of the goalie on his head. He was then on the ground and the doc had to make a decision ‘on the pitch or off the pitch’, and the decision was off the pitch. We accept that of course. When he came in he was sitting in the dressing room watching the game on television. So he was then fine, but of course, we have to wait. He got a proper knock, obviously, in that situation.” – Jurgen Klopp
Whether Salah can be fit for the final day of the season visit of Wolves could prove pivotal for Fantasy managers. He was Liverpool’s primary goal threat against Newcastle, registering more shots and more efforts in the box than any of his colleagues. His deft first-half finish extended his lead at the top of the Golden Boot charts and means he has five goals in as many Premier League outings.
By contrast, Sadio Mané (£10.2m) was largely anonymous, as has often been the case in away matches this season. He had just one shot on goal all evening and was unable to be the chief beneficiary of Newcastle’s vulnerability in the air, despite registering more headed attempts than any other midfielder this season.
Despite winning the game in dramatic fashion, Liverpool were not quite at their ruthless best, actually emerging from the trip to Newcastle with a lower expected goals (xG) score than their hosts. That may have been down to Roberto Firmino‘s (£9.3m) latest absence. After missing Gameweek 36 and then only playing a small part in the defeat to Barcelona, the Brazilian could not overcome the muscle injury he has been dealing with of late. Klopp has already ruled him out of midweek Champions League action and must wait and see if he can feature against Wolves on Sunday.
“(Firmino) will not be ready for Tuesday and the rest we will see.” – Jurgen Klopp
Part of what caused Liverpool problems in Firmino’s absence has been the role Daniel Sturridge (£5.6m) has played in the last two matches. He started up front in both Gameweek 36 and 37, but in neither match did he get close to replicating what Firmino brings to the team. The Brazilian has been an excellent link-up man for Liverpool this season, while Sturridge has proved to be more of a one-dimensional forward, largely looking to shoot on sight. Despite his selfish tendencies in front of goal, seven players have registered a higher expected goal involvement (xGI) score in the last two matches than the Englishman, even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.4m).
It will be interesting to see who is given the nod to start up front against Wolves if it looks like Firmino cannot play. With Sturridge not particularly impressing, Divock Origi (£5.0m) might fancy his chances after he got the all-important late winning goal for Liverpool. The last time he started at home in the league he featured on the left of the front three, allowing Mané to play through the middle, and got himself a goal too. However, that was, admittedly, against Watford, who have been much worse against top six sides this year than Wolves.
Xherdan Shaqiri (£6.8m) may also be in contention given his role in the team earlier this season, and an assist for the winner at Newcastle. When Salah was being played as the centre-forward in the 4-2-3-1 system, Shaqiri occupied the right attacking-midfield position and could play there again if Klopp opts to change formation for the final day of the campaign.
“We have fresh players on the bench, try to have an impact – and they had [an impact]. It was a wonderful free-kick from Shaq and sensational header from Divock and we win the game. We are now qualified for the league final, which is brilliant. So crucial. What can I say? It is just brilliant, it is like a fairy tale. You can say whatever you want about me – they don’t play often enough, Shaqiri not often enough. I make this decision. It is great that they do it, I love it. That was really a big moment.” – Jurgen Klopp
It was a mixed evening for Liverpool defensive assets as their fortunes were decided on their attacking capabilities rather than clean sheet potential. As previously mentioned, Newcastle certainly deserved their goals based on the quality of their chances, which will be of some concern ahead of a clash with top-six specialists Wolves on the final day.
“Credit to Newcastle, that was, wow… any people who doubt or whatever that teams don’t play for anything anymore, or maybe are halfway on the beach already, they were really the opposite. Is there any history between Newcastle and Liverpool that I don’t know about? The atmosphere was like there was something that happened in the past. The boys, again, were ready to face it, ready to deal with it and that’s brilliant.” – Jurgen Klopp
It was the Magpies’ weaknesses that dictated which of the Liverpool defenders were able to pull in offensive returns. They have been particularly vulnerable to players with aerial threat and set pieces this season, which is why Virgil van Dijk (£6.7m) was able to convert perhaps the easiest header of his career into the net, completely unmarked, in the 13th minute.
Also benefitting hugely in this department was Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.7m) who took the corner for that opener. His ability to cross the ball in early from wide areas helped him to his second assist of the night when Salah converted his 28th-minute chance.
His pair of assists on Saturday night helped make Premier League history, in fact. The England international has now provided 11 of them this season, and is just one short of colleague Andrew Robertson (£6.8m). Crucially, those who have opted to own both of the two full-backs have been handsomely rewarded this season, as they have arguably been the most effective defensive double-up in FPL history. The efforts of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson mean that it is the first time in Premier League history that two defenders from the same club have produced more than 10 assists in a campaign.
“The first goal, Pete Krawietz and Greg and James, our analysts, what they do around set-pieces is unbelievable. It is really nice to see. Having Virgil van Dijk completely free in the box is pretty rare, it was a wonderful routine.” – Jurgen Klopp
However, it must be said that Alexander-Arnold was hugely fortunate to last longer than 20 minutes at Newcastle. He was the last bastion of defence for one of Newcastle’s first-half counter-attacks, blocking Salomón Rondón‘s (£5.9m) shot with his elbow, before it was converted by Christian Atsu (£5.1m). Had Liverpool been able to clear their lines, it is likely that they would have conceded a penalty for the handball and Alexander-Arnold would have been sent off.
In scoring twice, Newcastle demonstrated that their offensive potential is not necessarily dependent on Miguel Almirón (£6.0m). The Paraguayan international transformed the pace of their attack since signing in January, and also brought out the best in Ayoze Pérez (£6.1m) in recent weeks. It had been thought that going up against Liverpool without Almirón might see the Magpies offer little in the way of goal threat, but they asked Liverpool plenty of questions.
Rondón, in particular, was a constant menace, not only with his characteristic running and pressing off the ball but with his efforts on goal too. No player on the pitch had more shots in the box, either total or inside the box, than the Venezuelan international, suggesting he could act as an effective differential signing for the Gameweek 38 trip to relegated Fulham.
Newcastle United XI (5-4-1): Dúbravka; Ritchie, Dummett, Lascelles, Schär (Muto 90+1′), Manquillo; Atsu, Ki, Hayden, A Pérez; Rondón.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Lovren (Milner 66′), Alexander-Arnold; Wijnaldum (Shaqiri 66′), Fabinho, Henderson; Mané, Sturridge, Salah (Origi 73′).