Newcastle V Liverpool at St James' Park : Match Preview
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Pardew aims to make statement
Alan Pardew has challenged his Newcastle team to make a statement about the destiny of their season as they attempt to right two horrific wrongs.
The Magpies face in-from Liverpool at St James' Park on Saturday and then head to arch-rivals Sunderland eight days later in a pair of fixtures which could provide a telling indication of their current state of health.
Six months ago, the same two clubs provided Pardew's men with the rudest of awakenings when the Black Cats made the short trip to Tyneside and against all the odds, left with a famous 3-0 victory a fortnight before the Reds doubled the dose in more than once sense in a 6-0 rout.
However, Pardew is hoping his players can gain a measure of revenge for both debacles and prove that they are far better than they appeared to be on either of those days.
He said: "You hope so. I'd like to think it puts fire in your belly because that's what it should do.
"I have certainly got fire in my belly to get positive results and make sure they are distant memories."
If Newcastle are to achieve the first leg of their aim, they will have to find a way to shackle Liverpool front two Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Suarez was suspended for last season's encounter, in which Sturridge scored twice, but the pair have formed a formidable partnership at the start of the new campaign, prompting manager Brendan Rodgers to suggest there are not many better double-acts around.
It is a view with which Pardew agrees whole-heartedly.
He said: "They carry a threat in front of you and in behind, which is the best threat you can have.
"If you defend deep against them, they pick it up short and particularly Suarez starts running at you and causes you all sorts of problems, yet if you play a high line, then Sturridge's pace is a problem in behind.
"It's that mixture that is probably why they are having such success. It gives a back four a problem.
"But taking all of that aside, they are also great players and that makes it doubly difficult."
Fabricio Coloccini's absence through injury may make the process of containing the Reds' SAS strike-force that much more difficult, although Pardew is hoping that his defenders will be up to the task.
Steven Taylor, a potential replacement for Coloccini, is unlikely to have recovered in time from a hamstring problem, so Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is in line to start alongside Mike Williamson.
Meanwhile, midfielder Jonas Gutierrez has been allowed to return to his native Argentina for personal reasons.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will takes his strongest squad of the season to Newcastle with the assertion there is plenty more to come from his side.
The second-placed Reds head to St James' Park for Saturday's early kick-off at virtually full strength.
Only playmaker Philippe Coutinho is missing as he continues his recovery from a shoulder operation as full-backs Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho and midfielder Joe Allen all return.
"We'll arrive with our strongest squad of the season against Newcastle," said Rodgers.
"We'll get better as we grow together more. I go on about performance because I don't just like to get three points; I worry about playing well and playing in a certain way. That's always how I've been.
"But I can't take anything away from how we've been so far. In terms of results, we've been absolutely brilliant and this is the most competitive league in the world.
"But it shows you how much growth there is still left in the team, that we can win games 3-1 (last time out at home to Crystal Palace) and I can come away a little bit dissatisfied because of the performance.
"What I can't argue with is the work of the players, the honesty of the players, how humble they are and how willing they are to come in to train every day to be better.
"I've got a great group here that I think will get better - that's something that we aim to do, always improve.
"If we can do that and continue to win games, then of course I'll be happy."
Not that Rodgers will be taking the Magpies lightly even if they have struggled to hit top form at home having registered a win, a draw and defeat at St James' so far.
They were 2-1 winners at Cardiff prior to the international break and the Reds boss expects them to have been lifted by that after two successive league defeats.
And he does not expect their 6-0 drubbing over the Magpies in April to give his side any advantage.
"In our game last year, we were exceptional up there in our performance level," he added.
"With all due respect it probably has no bearing on the game at the weekend.
"It's going to be a tough game, but we're full of confidence and real belief in the team.
"There will be even greater motivation from our perspective, because we know that Newcastle are coming off the back of a really good result at Cardiff.
"It hasn't been so easy for them at home. It's a difficult place - you've got some 50,000 really passionate supporters who demand that you play attacking football."
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