BOLTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Leon Best of Newcastle United battles with Paul Robinson and Fabrice Muamba of Bolton during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United at the Reebok Stadium on December 26, 2011 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Liverpool-Newcastle United is set to kick off in just a few hours, and we've got the most up-to-date injury information for both teams. While you're here, why not check out our match preview? Then, make sure you stick around for the live game thread, posted 1 hour before the start of the match.
Newcastle's training room isn't empty by any stretch of the imagination, but they're much closer to having their preferred 11 on the pitch than they have been in quite some time, a bit of good timing since they're facing the team right above them in the table.
Mike Williamson returned to the starting lineup at Bolton and, providing he hasn't suffered any setbacks, will continue to partner with Fabricio Coloccini in the center of the defense. James Perch remains the third choice should Williamson be unable to play.
Ryan Taylor (ankle) and Davide Santon (knee) have taken turns picking up injuries, with Santon going down most recently. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the health of each, it's unclear at this point who Alan Pardew prefers, though it is presumed that Raylor sits ahead on the depth chart. He'll likely get the start. Santon faces a fitness test, and if he fails, Shane Ferguson is next in line.
Peter Lovenkrands is out with a calf strain. As of today, he is expected to be available in two weeks.
Dan Gosling has completed his three-match ban and is eligible to return, though he is in no danger of being selected to the Starting XI.
Liverpool is mostly injury-free, the lone exception being Lucas Leiva, who was injured in a cup match earlier this season. Stephen Gerrard was used as a sub in Liverpool's draw with Blackburn, and it is unknown if he will get the start today.
You may have heard that the Reds will be without the services of Luis Suarez, but not for the alleged racist comments that have caused so much, erm, discussion in recent weeks. Rather, he has been suspended for one game for the one-finger salute (officially an "obscene gesture") he gave Fulham supporters back on December 5. It is widely assumed that Craig Bellamy will take his place, and that former Geordie hero Andy Carroll will be the focus of the Liverpool attack. A goal from either of these guys is going to feel like a gut punch.
Final Selection Guesses
The competition between Leon Best and Hatem Ben Arfa for the secondary striker role is the selection controversy du jour on Tyneside. Best has been less than effective for a string of several games, leading many supporters to call for Ben Arfa as a replacement. It's an easy argument to make, as HBA is arguably the most talented player not currently guaranteed a starting spot. He made the argument even easier as the Toon attack opened up as soon as he stepped on the pitch at Bolton, culminating in 2 quick goals, one of which was scored by Ben Arfa himself. Pardew hasn't directly spoken on the situation, but my gut tells me that he will continue handing Best starts in hopes that he will regain his form before Demba Ba leaves for the Africa Cup of Nations in less than a month.
LFC (4-4-2): Reina | Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique | Downing, Henderson, Adam, Maxi | Carroll, Bellamy
Subs: Doni, Shelvey, Carragher, Kuyt, Gerrard, Kelly, Coates
NUFC (4-4-2): Krul | Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, RTaylor | Obertan, Cabaye, Tiote, Jonas | Best, Ba
Subs: Elliot, Santon, Perch, Vuckic, Ben Arfa, Sammy, Shola