Mario Balotelli Liverpool Hull City Jakupovic
Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli misses a chance against Hull City in their English Premier League gameReuters

Mario Balotelli was vital in Liverpool's midweek Capital One Cup victory over Swansea, scoring the late equaliser, which sparked an even later comeback.

Now, Brendan Rodgers will hope and pray that the Italian continues to hit the mark as Liverpool travel to St. James' Park to take on a buoyant Newcastle United in the English Premier League.

Such has been the topsy turvy nature of the English Premier League this season, that Newcastle will head into this match as the ones in form.

A 1-0 win against Leicester City a couple of weeks ago at home was followed by an impressive come-from-behind away triumph at Tottenham. Then came the best win of them all, when Newcastle went to the fortress Etihad and knocked defending champions Manchester City out of the League Cup.

While the jury on Alan Pardew is still out, the Magpies manager has certainly done his bit in the last three games to appease the supporters, and that appeasement will only get better if he can manufacture a win against Liverpool.

"It is always a tough game," said Pardew looking forward to facing Liverpool. "It's always a great fixture which has a certain romance about it, and I think it's going to make for a cracking game on Saturday.

"There have been some good games against Liverpool since I've been here and we have more then held our own.

"I'm pretty confident what Liverpool will do, I know him [Rodgers] well enough to know how he will come and play, but I think we can surprise them because one thing is for sure, Brendan won't know my team.

"But I'm pretty confident of what's it is going to be and I think it will be an entertaining game."

Liverpool are four points ahead of Newcastle at the moment, but nine behind leaders Chelsea, and if they are to compete for the title right until the end like last season, then Rodgers will know his team cannot afford too many more dropped points.

However, those points from last season came via goals, with Liverpool able to make up for a relatively leaky defence – they conceded the second most goals in the top eight last season, one less than Tottenham -- by just scoring more than their opponents.

That has not been apparent this season. One, because Luis Suarez has left for Barcelona, and the other, because Daniel Sturridge has been out injured for most of the season, and will also miss this game against Newcastle United.

"We lost a world class talent and the natural progress of the team was halted -- we needed the squad rebuilt," Rodgers said. "I think where we are is what was expected. The players we brought in [over the summer] were not really established.

"That decision was made knowing they might struggle a bit initially but further in the future would be big players for the club. That is where we are right now."

Liverpool, after such a resurgence last season, cannot afford to remain where they are, though, and if they are to have a real crack at the title, a victory at Newcastle is an absolute must, with a point, like they managed in a 2-2 draw last season, not enough.

Where to Watch Live

The match is set for a 6.15 pm IST (12.45 pm GMT, 8.45 am ET) start with live coverage on Star Sports 4 and Star Sports HD1. The action can also be watched via live streaming online in India on Star Sports online. TV coverage in the UK will be on BT Sport, with the option to live stream online possible via BT Sport Online App or Watch BT Sport Online. ,Audience in the UK can also listen to the match via radio on BBC Radio 5 Live or on the website. Catch the action in the US on TV on NBC Sports, while the game can also be Live Streamed online NBC Sports Extra.

Australia viewers can Live Stream the action Fox Sports On Demand, while viewers in Canada can do the same Sportsnet online. Viewers in the Middle East and North Africa can watch the match via Live Streaming online courtesy Bein Sports Connect, while South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa viewers can do so via SuperSport online.

Team news: Newcastle: Cheick Tiote is ruled out for the Magpies with a calf injury, while the involvement of Papiss Cisse is in doubt with the striker struggling with a knee problem.

Liverpool: Sturridge remains ruled out for the away team, while Mamadou Sakho, Jon Flanagan, Jose Enrique and Suso will also miss the clash.

Expected lineups: Newcastle: Krul; Janmaat, Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Dummett; Colback, Anita; Gouffran, Sissoko, Cabella; Perez.

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Gerrard, Allen; Borini, Balotelli, Sterling.