44 min: A promising looking Newcastle attack breaks down when Fabinho robs the ball from Manquillo and advances up the pitch with no little authority.
41 min: Salomon Rondon is played in between the two Liverpool centre-backs with a nice clipped pass from Perez, but shoots feebly and straight at Alisson after getting the ball caught under his feet.
38 min: Fabian Schar is penalised for a foul on Sadio Mane halfway inside the Liverpool half. Mo Salah curls the free-kick into the Newcastle penalty area, aiming for Big Virgil, but Martin Dubravka is quick off his line to claim confidently.
36 min: Matt Ritchie tries to play Rondon in behind the Liverpool defence from deep after Jordan Henderson had given the ball away. The Venezuelen looks to be away but is flagged for offside after Dejan Lovren had stepped up.
34 min: Liverpool spurn a half-chance as Sadio Mane is denied by Martin Dubravka dashing off his line to save in a one-on-one.
32 min: According to my colleague and compatriot Miguel Delaney, referees can’t give a red card after playing an advantage, as Marriner did for the Newcastle goal, unless it is for violent conduct. Assuming he is correct, young Mr Alexander-Arnold has every right to be gadding about on the pitch.
29 min: Those pub debates will have cranked up a notch in intensity, now that a player who perhaps shouldn’t be on the pitch has helped Liverpool go back in front with a sublime cross from the right flank. That goal, which Salah scored with a good finish, puts Salah two ahead of Sadio Mane in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot. He was completely unmarked in the penalty area, much like Van Dijk was for Liverpool’s first. Rafael Benitez will be furious with his defenders.
Liverpool retake the lead. Trent Alexander-Arnold turns provider again, pinging a wonderful cross from the right touchline into the penalty area, where Mo Salah volleys home with his right foot.
26 min: Liverpool are under serious pressure here. Ayoze Perez gets the better of Virgil van Dijk, receiving a pass from Atsu and unleashing an early shot that thumps against the upright from a tight-ish angle.
24 min: Liverpool might have dodged a bit of a bullet there, because if Atsu hadn’t scored, referee Andre Marriner would have had little choice but to award Newcastle a penalty and issue Trent Alexander-Arnold with a red card for deliberate hand-ball. Obviously, they might have missed the penalty but Liverpool would have been a man down for 70 minutes. Should Marriner have sent him off anyway? That’s a matter that is no doubt being debated in bars around the country as I type.
21 min: Chaos in the Liverpool penalty area, as Manquillo sends in a cross from the right. Lovren’s clearance is dreadful and the ball is pinged across the penalty area from Ritchie to Rondon, who attempts to stab home from close range. Trent Alexander-Arnold stops the ball on the line with his hand and there are frantic appeals from Rondon for a penalty. Appeals that are halted abruptly when the ball drops for Christian Atsu, who rifles home.
Crikey! Christian Atsu equalises for Newcastle.
16 min: Despite starting brightly, Newcastle are now very much second best in this game and not just on the scoreboard. Liverpool are bossing proceedings at the moment.
14 min:Liverpool settle any jitters with an early goal. They won a corner, which was swung in from the left. With a couple of his team-mates acting as blockers, Virgil van Dijk found himself completely unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box and nods past Martin Dubravka. It was Jamaal Lascelles who got caught out there, having been drawn into tracking a Sadio Mane run and slipping when he should have been marking the goalscorer.
Liverpool lead! Virgil van Dijk heads home from six yards out at a corner.
11 min: Fabian Schar does well to dispossess Mane in the Newcastle penalty area, only to make a dog’s breakfast of his attempted clearance. He passes straight toRobertson, who finds Mo Salah on the right side of the penalty area. He shoots wide from a tight angle.
9 min: Sadio Mane goes to ground in the Newcastle penalty area holding his face after finding himself on the wrong end of a high boot from Javi Manquilo. Should it have been a penalty? I don’t really know – Manquilo got the ball, but the boot was high. On Sky’s commentary, Jamie Carragher suggests it would have been a free-kick anywhere else on the pitch.
8 min: Gini Wijnaldum plays the ball wide to Andy Robertson in the inside left channel. He makes ground into the Newcastle penalty area, but runs down a blind alley and is dispossessed.
7 min: Trent Alexander-Arnold tries to pick out Mo Salah with a raking delivery from deep, but it’s cleared by the head of a Newcastle defender. Good vision from the young full-back, there. The execution wasn’t too bad either.
6 min: Liverpool enjoy their first decent period of sustained possession, pinging the ball around midfield, probing for an opening.
4 min: Under a wee bit of pressure, Dejan Lovren shanks a clearance into the stand to sarcastic cheers and applause from those sitting in it and Newcastle win another throw-in. Then another.
3 min: Play is punctuated by a series of Newcastle throw-ins on the near touchline.
2 min: Christian Atsu whips a cross into the Liverpool penalty area from the left wing, but it’s too close to Alisson to cause any problems. The Liverpool goalkeeper gathers comfortably to get an early touch.
1 min: Newcastle get the ball rolling in a raucous St James’ Park, their players wearing their customary home kit of black and white stripes, black shorts and white socks. Liverpool’s players wear red shirts, shorts and socks.
Not long now: Rafael Benitez has revealed he’ll be lining his side up in a 5-4-1 tonight, saying he has little choice but to do so “because they push you all the time”. The teams march out on to the St James’s Park pitch, where the Gallowgate end to their right is covered by a massive banner specially imported from Poland, with the names of the 2,000 fans who paid for it embroidered on it. “We are the Mags”, it reads. Kick-off is just a few minutes away.
Bad news for Liverpool fans: When asked about Roberto Firmino’s chances of being fit in time for Liverpool’s return leg against Barcelona on Tuesday night, Jurgen Klopp has told Sky Sports “it’s not looking good”. He also said his medical staff there was no chance whatsoever of Firmino being fit for tonight.
Two changes for Newcastle. As expected, Jamaal Lascelles returns to action, with Federico Fernandez making way in defence. In midfield, Ki replaces Jonjo Shelvey, who started against Brighton.
And five for Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp brings Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren into his defence, with Joel Matip and Joe Gomez making way from the side that lost against Barcelona. In midfield, Jordan Henderson starts in place of the injured Naby Keita, while James Milner is out of the side Daniel Sturridge will play up front, while Bobby Firmino is absent from Liverpool’s match-day squad.
Newcastle: Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Perez, Ki, Hayden, Atsu, Rondon.
Subs: Shelvey, Diame, Muto, Kenedy, Fernandez, Barreca, Darlow.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Sturridge, Mane.
Subs: Milner, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mignolet, Shaqiri, Origi, Matip.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
An intriguing sub-plot: Rafael Benitez was in charge of Liverpool when they last won a major trophy (with apologies to the 2006 FA Cup and 2012 League Cup), leading them to Champions League glory over AC Milan on an unforgettable May night in Istanbul 14 years ago.
Opinions are divided on how he will feel going into tonight’s game, but it’s difficult to imagine a man with his work ethic and winning mentality having any qualms whatsoever about throwing a spanner in the works as his former club try to win the title.
Indeed, one suspects that Benitez might quite like the fact that he was the boss the last time Liverpool enjoyed a major success and won’t be enamoured with the notion of some German upstart swanning into Merseyside and stealing his thunder with a title win.
Indeed, Benitez went close to winning the league title with Liverpool himself; in the 2008-09 Premier League season, they lost just twice as they finished just four points behind a Manchester United team that won eight and drew one of their final nine games in the run-in.
Early team news: In form Newcastle striker Ayoze Perez is expected to be fit to play tonight, despite limping out of his side’s draw with Brighton with a hip problem last weekend. With Sean Longstaff, DeAnre Yedlin and Florian Lejeune all sidelined, central defender Jamaal Lascelles is available for selection again after missing out on the Brighton game through illness.
Despite coming off the bench in Liverpool’s game against Barcelona, Roberto Firmino remains a doubt as he hasn’t fully recovered from a thigh muscle injury. He may be risked tonight, depending on whether or not his manager, Jurgen Klopp, considers the Champions League a lost cause. Having limped off with a groin injury in Barcelona, Naby Keita has played his last game of the season. His fellow midfielder Adam Lallana is also out.
Following their defeat at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday, Liverpool must attempt to put their disappointment behind them as their focus returns to the Premier League. With Manchester not due to play Leicester City until Monday, Liverpool can ramp up the pressure on their title rivals with a win over Newcastle, while any other result will also certainly cause irreparable harm to their chances of winning the league for the first time since 1990. Kick-off is at 7.45pm (BST), but stay tuned for team news and build-up in the meantime.