Newcastle take on Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final this Sunday in front of the Sky cameras – but what do the stats say ahead of the blockbuster clash?
The Magpies will be aiming to win their first major domestic trophy in almost 68 years, but their opponents are clear favorites to win – having claimed 40 major trophies since Newcastle’s last major domestic silverware: the FA Cup in 1955.
Comparing the two clubs’ achievements over the years, it’s easy to see why there is anticipation for the trophy to go to Old Trafford for a sixth time.
To make life more difficult for Newcastle, they will be without first-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope, who has kept 10 clean sheets in his last 14 games and four shutouts in five Carabao Cup appearances for the club.
Sunday 26 February 15:00
As a result, either Loris Karius will make his Newcastle debut – or Mark Gillespie will come on for just his fourth Newcastle appearance.
The much-maligned Karius is favorite to start but has not made a senior appearance since February 2021 – while on loan at Union Berlin.
His last appearance for an English club was in Liverpool’s 3-1 Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid in May 2018, when his two errors clearly contributed to his side’s downfall.
That disastrous performance marked the end of his Liverpool career – but the stats show he deserves more respect.
In fact, he kept clean sheets in 22 of his 49 appearances for Liverpool, which equates to 45 per cent – a ratio bettered only by Ray Clemens (48.6 per cent) in the club’s entire history.
Karius kept his Premier League opener against Manchester United in October 2016 and, if he can repeat the trick on Sunday, then redemption could be his.
Karius’ clearance from Gareth Bale’s long-range shot in the Champions League final belies a more than respectable Premier League shot save rate from outside the area of 90%. That’s a figure only 10 goalkeepers have bettered in the last 10 years – so the error shouldn’t unduly worry Newcastle fans.
Newcastle naysayers could instead point to Karius’ pass accuracy of 66.4%, which is significantly better than that of the club’s regular keeper Pope, who averages just 42.8%. After all, it was his distribution that helped Jurgen Klopp decide he was right for his Liverpool team in the first place.
Karius played as a sweeper at times for Mainz in the Bundesliga, allowing them to squeeze their opposition and, in his time at Liverpool, he was the best in the Premier League for interceptions outside his area.
The German’s composure with the ball at his feet is something Eddie Howe could use as he seeks to become the first English manager to win the League Cup since Steve McClaren with Middlesbrough in 2004.
In Manchester, Erik ten Hag will be looking to become the first Dutch manager to win the trophy and will look to in-form Marcus Rashford to lead his side to victory.
Rashford is brimming with confidence, having scored 16 goals in 17 appearances since the World Cup – a goal every 80 minutes.
He doesn’t fear Newcastle either, with four goals in his last seven appearances against them, while he also scored twice against Karius the last time he had him in March 2018.
Rashford’s League Cup record has been extremely strong over the past five years, with 12 goals and six assists in his last 15 appearances in the competition.
He has averaged a goal every 73 minutes and a goal every 49 minutes in the competition during that time. If he scores on Sunday, he will become this season’s top scorer – as he is currently level on five goals with Southampton’s Che Adams.
A goal against Newcastle would be Rashford’s first goal in a cup final after five finals without scoring and, if he scores, would certainly help him secure his fourth major trophy at the club.