“It’s not just a normal Liverpool vs Newcastle game, it’s Liverpool versus the man who took them to their fifth European title in Rafa Benitez. Looking at when Newcastle United beat Manchester United, it’s clear that Rafa gets his teams up for the biggest games, and Rafa will not want to go back to Anfield, see the banner with his name on and just be there as a bit part player. He will want to win. Having said that, I think Liverpool are irresistible at home. If they get the first goal then it could be a case of pick a number as Newcastle United tend not to score a lot of goals. I’m going to go for Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle.
“Rafa Benitez will keep Newcastle up.I think the performance against Manchester United showed that he now has them fighting as a team, as individuals and as a group. The players that have come in have done quite well, he’s been working on a tight budget and we still don’t know whether Mike Ashley will sell the club to another consortium – it’s looking unlikely but Mike Ashley himself doesn’t really want to stay at the football club. Rafa has had to wheel and deal in that kind of environment but there are three worse sides than Newcastle United in the Premier League, and I think they will take their place alongside the other nineteen clubs in the Premier League this time next year.
“Rafa will be up there with the likes of Shankly and Paisley, Dalglish and Fagan by virtue of the fact that even though he didn’t win the league, he won the European Cup and that put a nice bit of distance between Liverpool and Manchester United. Even though Manchester United started to claw back those domestic top level titles, Rafa Benitez winning Liverpool’s fifth European Cup put a nice two trophy gap between them and their rivals.
“That’s why he will go down in folklore, though I think he will have been very disappointed not to have won the league with the quality of players he had at his disposal at the club. But if he’s not quite Shankly and Paisley, he’s in that group underneath that have their own banner at the Kop and you don’t get one of those unless you’ve been absolutely top quality.”