A run of three victories had lifted the Tynesiders into the Champions League places prior to last weekend’s loss at fellow new-boys Brighton & Hove Albion. But a 1-0 defeat in Sussex brought them crashing back down to earth.
It will a match of extra significance for Benítez who spent six years at Anfield until 2010, winning the Champions League – reaching another final two years later – as well as the FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
The Spaniard remains a hugely popular figure at Anfield, some seven years after his sacking, but he will be in the home dugout on Sunday as the Magpies’ manager.
Newcastle have just three defensive injuries to contend with and there could be good news on the fitness of summer signing Florian Lejeune. The former Eibar centre-half was injured on the opening weekend of the season but may recover from an ankle injury to return to the matchday squad.
Paul Dummett (hamstring) and Massadio Haïdara (knee) are both ruled out for the hosts, however.
Benítez’s big selection dilemma will be over whether to include Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle from the start. The introduction of the duo at Brighton last weekend lifted the Magpies and the pair could be in line for a re-call on Sunday.
If they do come into the side it will be in place of Ayoze Pérez and Joselu respectively. New signing Joselu missed a gilt-edged chance at the AmEx Stadium and has missed more ‘big chances’ than any other Premier League forward this season.
The game kicks off at 4.30pm and will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event.
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