Liverpool Vs. Newcastle United, 2011 Premier League: Preview, Andy Carroll Is The Obvious Story

Andy Carroll of Liverpool ties his boots during the Carling Cup quarter final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London, England. Liverpool play Newcastle on December 30, 2011. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Liverpool and Newcastle contest the Andy Carroll Derby on Friday. Yes, he's actually going to have to play.

People are always going to spend at least a little bit of time talking about Andy Carroll when Liverpool takes on Newcastle United, but thanks to some other events, he is in the spotlight. Luis Suarez has been suspended for one game -- this one -- for making an 'offensive gesture' towards Fulham supporters. This means that, beyond any shadow of a doubt, Andy Carroll will start. For Liverpool to win, he'll probably need to have a decent game.

If Liverpool were playing any other team, all of the focus would be on Steven Gerrard. It seems like it's been two years since Gerrard was a true star, but he's finally back from injury and should feature in the starting lineup. With Suarez suspended and Lucas Leiva out injured, the Reds will need Gerrard to return to the days where he provided a little bit of both of what Lucas and Suarez do for a team, winning the ball and creating for others.

If Newcastle were playing anyone but a member of the Sky Six, we'd be talking about Demba Ba. Almost certainly the best signing of the last transfer window, Ba has scored 14 Premier League goals in half of a season after joining from West Ham United on a free transfer. He hasn't been quite the same level of great against elite teams, but he hasn't looked overmatched either, and Liverpool's defense is hardly world class.

Liverpool vs. Newcastle United

Game Date/Time: Friday, December 30, 2:45 p.m. ET, 7:45 p.m. local

Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England

TV: FOX Soccer Channel (USA - English), FOX Deportes (USA - Spanish), Sportsnet World (Canada), Sky Sports 1 (UK)

For more on the two teams, check out Newcastle United blog Coming Home Newcastle and Liverpool FC blogs Anfield Asylum and The Offside Liverpool.

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