Cody Gakpo has won the approval of Paul Merson, who less than a month ago wanted Liverpool to drop him.

Paul Merson appears to have performed a remarkable U-turn on Cody Gakpo, after Liverpool’s new signing scored his first goal for the club against Everton.

The Dutch international has endured a slow start to his Anfield career, failing to find the target in his first six matches on a barren run in which the Reds won only once.

But that all changed on Monday night in the Merseyside derby with Gakpo netting his first Liverpool goal at the Anfield Road end and going on to impress in a much-needed 2-0 win. And now Merson, who was calling for Jurgen Klopp to drop the 23-year-old before the home match against Chelsea last month, insists that he must start against Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday.

Writing in his weekly predictions column for Sportskeeda, Merson said: “This is a massive game. Liverpool are back to their high-tempo style of play, and they’re closing down very well. Some of their players played very well against Everton. They’re not at their best yet, but they’re getting there.

“This is such a hard game to call. Liverpool are in for a big few days – and they’ll face Real Madrid after their Premier League game against Newcastle. The Champions League is their last chance to win a trophy. A draw here doesn’t really help them, to be honest. They’ll need to win this match.

“Cody Gakpo looked like a different player after he scored his goal. As a professional footballer, if there’s one thing you can bottle up and keep forever, it’s confidence. After Gakpo scored his goals, he was steaming past players. I’d play him this weekend alongside Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah.

“Newcastle are a solid team, but they’re not winning many football matches. If Liverpool win this game, they’ve got every chance of making it into the Premier League top four. I think this game will end in a draw – it suits Newcastle, but it doesn’t suit Liverpool.”

Merson’s call for Gakpo’s inclusion is in stark contrast to the position he took up four weeks earlier when the Reds were preparing to host Chelsea on January 21.

Writing in the same column, Merson said: “Cody Gakpo’s been struggling a bit so far – I can’t remember players for Holland coming in and ripping it up in the Premier League in the last couple of years. He’ll need time, and he might need to come out of the team for a game or two.”

Liverpool will have the opportunity to close the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Newcastle, should the Reds be able to secure their first Premier League away win since Boxing Day. A victory for Klopp’s team would reduce the deficit to six points with the Merseysiders still having a game in hand on the Magpies.

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