Liverpool vs Newcastle United Preview: Klopp's league leaders welcome former Merseyside hero 
(Photo: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)

Liverpool vs Newcastle United Preview: Klopp's league leaders welcome former Merseyside hero 

Liverpool host Newcastle United as the Reds former Champions League winning manager Rafael Benitez returns to Anfield.

Joshua Kerr

Premier League leaders Liverpool host Newcastle United on Boxing Day as the Reds former Champions League winning manager Rafael Benitez returns to Anfield. 

Jürgen Klopp's team are currently four points clear at the top of the league table after beating Wolves 2-0 on Friday and then seeing champions Manchester City beaten at home by Crystal Palace.

Benitez will be bringing his Magpies squad to Anfield who despite being five points clear of the drop are without a win in their last four league matches.

Newcastle were held to a draw in their most recent league outing - a 0-0 stalemate with the league's bottom of the pile and Claudio Ranieri's Fulham. 

The former Reds manager will undoubtedly receive a hero's welcome on his latest return to Liverpool's famous ground. The 54-year-old Spaniard famously won the club's fifth and most recent European Cup back in 2005.

Van Dijk keen to maintain momentum 

Liverpool are currently embarking on their best ever start to a top-flight season - registering 48 points from a possible 54. Klopp's side have won 15 out of 18 league matches and have racked up 11 clean sheets along the way. 

The Reds have won seven league matches on the bounce and also currently have the best defensive record in the division only leaking seven goals all season. The club's record signing Virgil van Dijk is desperate for the team to keep up this fine momentum built in recent weeks.

Eight of the last nine teams to lead at Christmas have gone on the win the league, but Van Dijk said: "There is a long way to go yet.

"It's a position that everyone wants to be in and we are in it at the moment. That's the only thing it is and we need to keep going.

"The next game is Newcastle United on Wednesday and then Arsenal and Manchester City, so it can change but we are not going to think about that. We take it game by game."

Liverpool may be leading the pack during the festive period, but, interestingly the last two out of ten occasions a team has surrendered the league title despite leading at Christmas was the Reds back in 2014 and 2009. 

Team News

Trent Alexander-Arnold is set to be available for the Reds Boxing Day clash with the Magpies.

The defender has been sidelined since sustaining a foot injury during the Reds’ 1-0 Champions League triumph over Napoli earlier this month.

Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner have stepped up in England internationals absence helping Klopp’s side to victories over Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively.

However, Alexander-Arnold could be in line to reclaim his place as the teams first choice right-back on Wednesday after proving his fitness in training.

Klopp has also received another further fitness boost ahead of Newcastle’s visit to Merseyside, with midfielder Naby Keita set to be available.

The Guinean was forced off during Friday’s win at Molineux after picking up a cut on his foot and sustaining bruised ribs, but,  resumed training at Melwood on Monday and is in contention to play a part on Wednesday.

Long-term absentee Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) is still unavailable. Meanwhile, Joel Matip (collarbone) and Joe Gomez (ankle) are still not ready to return to first-team action.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is not expected to feature before the end of the season, while the latter duo are expected to return to the fold in late January.

Newcastle will be without Ki Sung-Yeung after he departed for the Asian Cup.

The central midfielder was required to meet up with the South Korea squad in Abu Dhabi ahead of next month's tournament commencing December 26.

Jonjo Shelvey is still struggling to shake off a thigh injury, whilst Isaac Hayden could come into contention.

Defender Ciaran Clark missed Saturday's 0-0 stalemate with Fulham because of an ankle problem, although Federico Fernandez was included among the substitutes after recovering from a calf injury, keeper Karl Darlow (elbow) is still unavailable.