Liverpool thumped Newcastle 6-0 win at St James Park last April...without Luis Suarez
Having been thrashed at home less than six months ago by the team now currently standing second in the Premier League table, Newcastle United have enough reasons to be fearful when they again entertain Liverpool Saturday lunchtime.
But Brendan Rodgers has declared he makes the trip up to Tyneside with his strongest squad of the season so far.
The Anfield manager’s options are bolstered by the return of fit-again trio Glen Johnson, Joe Allen and Aly Cissokho, with Lucas Leiva also available after serving a one-match suspension.
Throw in an in-form Luis Suarez – missing from Liverpool’s thumping 6-0 win at Newcastle last April – and Rodgers is confident of maintaining his team’s top-four challenge.
“We’ll arrive with our strongest squad of the season against Newcastle,” says the Anfield manager.
“They haven’t played games, but they’ve been training now for the last few weeks.
“Glen Johnson will be back. Joe Allen will be back. Cissokho will be back.
“As I said, this will be the strongest available squad we’ve had this season.”
Johnson has not figured since injuring an ankle in the win against Manchester United on September 1, while Cissokho (ankle) and Allen (hamstring) were hurt in the Capital One Cup win over Notts County four days earlier.
The game, though, has come too soon for Philippe Coutinho, who continues to recover from shoulder surgery last month.
“He’s working with the physiologists on the field,” says Rodgers.
“He’s looking very good, but still not strong enough yet to join the training group.”
Rodgers maintains there is plenty of room for improvement within his team despite making their best start to a Premier League campaign in five years.
“We’ll get better as we grow together more,” he says.
“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. 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 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.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, has confirmed he was approached by Harry Redknapp to become England number two should the former Tottenham Hotspur manager had been named national team head coach ahead of Roy Hodgson.
The offer came after Rodgers’s Swansea City had been beaten 3-1 at White Hart Lane in April 2012.
“It was a unique conversation,” says the Northern Irishman. “He was very confident about being offered the national team job.
“He asked me about the possibility of going to work with him for the European Championships.
“It was a quick conversation. I was aware he was very keen to work with the chaps.
“I have total respect for Harry. He’s a wonderful character, he knows what he wants from a team, knows the players, knows the exciting style of football.
“What he wanted was someone to come and implement those ideas.
“I was certainly going to consider it. But at the end of it there was no decision to make.
“The job was given to Roy and he has done a brilliant job.”
Brendan Rodgers has called for calm over Harry Wilson and admits the Wales record-breaker remains some distance from breaking into the Liverpool first team.
Wilson became the youngest player to appear for the senior Wales side when he emerged as a late substitute in the World Cup qualifying draw in Belgium on Tuesday aged 16 years and 203 days.
The Wrexham-born winger has been a regular for Liverpool’s under-18 this season but has yet to progress to the U21 side.
And Rodgers dismissed suggestions Wilson could be ready for a Premier League bow and stressed the player should be allowed to continue developing.
“He’s a very talented young player,” said the Liverpool manager.
“To have him here at the club is brilliant. “I was first aware (Wilson could play for Wales) when I had a call from Ian Rush to say that he had done well in training and that Chris Coleman was very pleased with how he had been, and the possibilities of having him involved.
“It escalated from there. He did well in training and was then put into the squad.
“He’s a very talented young player that knows he’ll have a great opportunity here if he continues to develop at Liverpool. It’s important that we just stay calm and let him develop at his own rate.”