The Premier League title race this season has been a relentless sprint between Manchester City and Liverpool, as both clubs have refused to give up on their ambitions to be champions. Liverpool travelled to St. James’ Park to take on Newcastle United on Saturday, hoping to get the win that would take the race down to the last day of the season and came up against a familiar face in Rafa Benitez. He almost put a spanner in their works, but a late winner allowed the Reds to prevail. This tactical analysis will look at how Benitez so nearly thwarted his former employers’ title hopes.
Benitez stuck to the back five he has used for the majority of this season, with former Liverpool player Javier Manquillo starting at right wing-back, and Matt Ritchie continuing to fill in on the opposite flank. Sean Longstaff’s season-ending injury has allowed Ki Seung-Yeung to come back into midfield, alongside Isaac Hayden, while Salomon Rondon was the lone striker up front.
Jurgen Klopp was without Roberto Firmino, so Daniel Sturridge made a rare starting appearance. Midfield comprised of Jordan Henderson in his more advanced role, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Fabinho, while Dejan Lovren came in at centre-back in place of Joel Matip.