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GLEN JOHNSON: BETDAQ Brand Ambassador Glen Johnson previews Liverpool v Newcastle, speaks highly of Roberto Firmino, and reacts to the change of management at Watford.

Fortress Anfield too much for Magpies

It’s hard to see anything but a Liverpool win against Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime. They are so strong at Anfield these days and it’s becoming virtually impossible for visiting teams to get anything there. I think we’d all love to see one of those classic Liverpool v Newcastle games with plenty of goals, but there looks to be a big gulf between the two sides at the moment, so I’d expect Liverpool to get the job done in fairly routine fashion.

Some players really enjoy the early kick-off and some used to hate it. Personally, I used to love it because you wake up, have breakfast and go to the game, whereas with the 3pm games there tends to be a lot of clockwatching and sitting around waiting to get on the bus or to get into your car. Some players insist on eating pasta before a game, so if you’re playing early, you end up eating pasta at 8.30 in the morning which some found quite difficult. I didn’t really mind what I had for breakfast and for that reason, I used to really enjoy the early kick-off.

We are obviously very early on in the season, but I do see it as an advantage that Liverpool are playing before Manchester City. They’re at home and although no game in the Premier League is easy, they will expect to win and if they do they are a further three points ahead of their rivals. It’s a big psychological advantage being ahead in the title race and it will definitely be in the back of the City players’ minds if Liverpool do win.

Reds’ front three top class but Firmino my pick

In the past couple of seasons, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have all shown they are top-class in their own right, but if I had to pick one it would be Firmino. He does so much work that goes unnoticed and you lose count of the amount of opportunities he creates. It’s also rarely a 50-yard ball, it’s just clever flicks or little lay-offs which bring his teammates into the game and those are skills which I don’t think the others have at their disposal. Mane and Salah have the pace and the finishing ability, but the Brazilian is the one who links it all-together. He’s a massive reason why Liverpool have been so successful in recent times.

It’s a really tough task being a defender against a front-three like Liverpool’s. All three have different skills and that makes it so hard as you’ve almost got to have eyes in the back of your head! At least if you’re playing against someone who is quick and runs in behind, you know what he’s going to do, but with Liverpool’s attackers they cover all bases and that’s what makes them so lethal. It can’t be much fun for a back-four to try and defend against and you’ve just got to accept you’re going to be in for a tough 90 minutes. We were always told to pick-up the most dangerous opponent, although with Mane, Salah and Firmino running at you, it’s not always easy to know which one is going to cause the most damage!

Newcastle should have a solid season

While I don’t see Newcastle being anywhere near the top-six, I certainly think they’ll be competitive this season and progress from where they ended up last year. Off the pitch, there constantly seems to uncertainty around the ownership at the club and as a player, you just do your best to block it out and concentrate on the game. However, it does feel like there’s a bit of a cloud hanging over the club and it can be an unwanted distraction.

Bit surprised by Watford departure

I have to admit I was a bit surprised by Javi Gracia’s sacking at Watford, especially as they’ve brought back a manager they only recently got rid of. It’s always a bit tricky when there’s a managerial change as the new one will bring different coaching methods which take time to bed in and you might be asked to do things you haven’t done before. It can also be a positive though as you might have been on the fringes under one manager and then suddenly you’re a first team regular under another. It works both ways, but that’s part of being a professional footballer and you have to get on with it.

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