Newcastle United Vs Liverpool, Sat 11 Dec 2010

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New Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will hope for a major fitness boost as he prepares for his first game in charge against Liverpool.

Midfielder Joey Barton missed last weekend's 3-1 defeat at West Brom with a slight groin injury which delayed his return from a three-match ban, while skipper Kevin Nolan is expected to be fit following the ankle problem which has sidelined him for the last two games.

Danny Guthrie was stretchered off at the Hawthorns with an ankle injury, but the damage is not as serious as was first feared and he could yet retain his place in the squad.

Steve Harper played a reserve-team game in midweek on his return from shoulder surgery and is continuing his quest for full fitness, and Leon Best (ankle) is also on the comeback trail.

But Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson serve the final leg of their own three-match bans and Dan Gosling (knee), Ryan Taylor (ankle ligaments) Hatem Ben Arfa (double leg fracture) are still out.

Meanwhile, Pardew insists he fully understood the responsibility he took on when he accepted the Newcastle job.

Chris Hughton's sacking on Monday has re-opened the wounds for fans who have spent much of Mike Ashley's three-and-a-half year reign railing against the way he has run the club.

His transfer policy, Kevin Keegan's treatment, the decision to sell the naming rights to St James' Park and Alan Shearer's second coming, which was quickly followed by his second departure in the wake of relegation from the Barclays Premier League, have all prompted furious responses.

But the reaction to Hughton's dismissal after leading the club through straitened times back into the top flight and, most notably, to a 5-1 thrashing of derby rivals Sunderland, has been as ferocious as anything the sportswear magnate has experienced to date.

It may have little effect on the famously thick-skinned Ashley, but Pardew finds himself in the unenviable position of having to placate players and supporters alike while at the same time dealing in the hard currency of Premier League points.

However, it is a challenge he readily accepted and one he is determined to overcome.

Pardew said: "The attraction of a club like this is the love the fans have for the club. At West Ham, it was a similar kind of love.

"It is passionate, almost bordering on religious, and you have to understand that.

"We carry a huge responsibility, the management team and the playing staff, to try to fulfil that criterion.

"It's a pressure and you have to perform every week, so I am hoping we can play a brand of football and in a style that the fans enjoy and love, and get them behind the team.

"Hopefully, that will start on Saturday."

Striker Fernando Torres returns to Liverpool's starting line-up for the game.

The Spain international missed Monday's victory over Aston Villa to be at the birth of his second child but comes straight back into the team, with Ryan Babel most likely to make way.

Captain Steven Gerrard is still a week away from making his comeback from a hamstring injury, so manager Roy Hodgson is likely to retain all but one of the side who comfortably beat Villa.

Hodgson believes the confidence within the club is typified by the performances of the likes of Maxi Rodriguez and Lucas.

The pair have not always been the most celebrated of players at Anfield but both have been heavily involved in the team's recent recovery from a poor start to the season.

Lucas, mainly because he attracted so much criticism in his first three seasons, has won many plaudits but Rodriguez, who has found a home on the left of midfield, is enjoying his best spell since arriving from Atletico Madrid in January.

Hodgson has been mightily impressed by the contribution made by the diminutive Argentina international, who in his first five months often allowed the game to pass him by.

"People have not spoken much about Maxi but he has been a revelation," he said.

"He is a bit of an unsung hero at the moment, he's not getting a lot of credit but he's doing a great job at the moment.

"He has taken on board the work we have tried to do and embraced the role I have given him and interpreted it so well both offensively and defensively.

"Suggestions that he goes missing in a game are very harsh and I can produce statistics to prove he doesn't go missing.

"His positional play is very good, his technical ability is very good and, at the moment, with three goals he is right up there."

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