I’ve stated in previous articles that Liverpool will consider this season to be a resounding success regardless of whether they actually claim the league title. Brendan Rodgers has catapulted his team from 7th last season to title contenders in under twelve months, which is a remarkable achievement by any standard.
Of course, if Liverpool did win it, it would perfectly commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives. It would also crown Steven Gerrard’s glittering career in which he’s won nearly every club football trophy available. And is there another player in the league more deserving? Not for my money.
Thinking back to Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in 2005 and their FA Cup win a year later, they do seem to be a side that goes about winning silverware the hard way. Winning trophies seems to be script-written for the Merseysiders – after all, outside of Hollywood, which team comes from 3-0 down at halftime to claim a landmark victory on penalties?
Nonetheless, Liverpool – similar to Chelsea – will hope Everton, Aston Villa or West Ham United will lend assistance by halting Manchester City’s headlong charge for the Premier League Trophy. Simultaneously, Brendan Rodgers will seek to banish memories of the weekend’s loss to Chelsea by winning their final two games of the season against Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
Luis Suarez should be boosted by his PFA Player of the Year award, and return to goal-scoring form, while the usual suspects in Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling will be expected to provide adequate support. That said, the much lauded telepathic understanding between Suarez and Sturridge has waned in recent weeks – though Sterling has more than made up for any shortfall in that department.
Crystal Palace and Newcastle will offer resistance though, so upon closer inspection …
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool:
Tony Pulis has Crystal Palace playing a brilliant brand of football since taking over the side in November 2013. In fact, before their loss to Manchester City last weekend, Palace enjoyed a strong run of five wins on the bounce – with victories over Everton and Chelsea among them.
Liverpool, meanwhile, will take heart from the fact that Man City were able to come away from Selhurst Park with all three points and that they enjoyed an eleven-game winning streak before the loss to Chelsea last time out.
The loss to Chelsea was Liverpool’s first since the turn of the year, which will give The Reds great encouragement as they head off to London. Of course they would have noted Palace’s wins over the teams in blue recently, so will be wary of the threat posed by Jason Puncheon and Mourane Chamakh among others.
Crystal Palace don’t have anything more to prove this term and have already secured a place in the top tier for next season, but Tony Pulis will aim to make a statement to the rest of the league by taking points away from another title-chasing team. Palace will try and stifle Liverpool’s menace in the form of Sturridge, Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, while trying pierce through Liverpool’s vulnerable defense.
Prediction: 1-3 to Liverpool. I think Liverpool have too much going forward for Crystal Palace to handle and if this season’s history is anything to go by, Liverpool will once again bounce back strongly from their latest set-back. The only time The Reds suffered back-to-back defeats this season was at the hands of Manchester City and Chelsea in December, and other than that have performed admirably in the face of adversity. But will nerves get the better of Brendan Rodgers’ team again?
Liverpool should keep an eye on: Jason Puncheon, Marouane Chamakh, Cameron Jerome and Tom Ince. Puncheon has scored four goals in his last six appearances, and given the support provided by Jerome, Ince and Chamakh, I don’t think Liverpool will keep a clean sheet in this one.
Newcastle travel to Anfield:
The final day of the season will be something to behold. Everton continue to battle for a place in Europe, Manchester United will hope to pip Spurs to sixth spot, the struggle against relegation will go down to the wire, and the Premier League trophy may well be decided on goal difference.
Newcastle, though they started brightly in the early part of the campaign, are having a terrible run of form as they’ve suffered 13 losses in eighteen games. They may even drop out of the top ten should their poor run endure, which may in turn cost Alan Pardew his position as manager at the Tyneside club.
Liverpool, by contrast, have won 14 of their last seventeen matches and should they still be in the hunt for the title following their trip to Crystal Palace, will be loathe to let the league trophy slip from their grasp in front of the Kop at season’s end.
This match also heralds the return of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson following his three-match ban sustained in the match against Manchester City at Anfield. The industrious midfielder has been sorely missed by Brendan Rodgers in recent weeks, especially as his seven assists this season are on par with Phelippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge’s respective tallies.
Newcastle may have taken a point from their home match against Liverpool in October, even though they were reduced to 10 men following Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s sending off, but it’s difficult to see anything other than a Liverpool victory at Anfield.
Prediction: 3-0 to Liverpool. With Jordan Henderson back to first-team action and with Sturridge, Countinho, Suarez and Sterling in front of him, Liverpool are sure to run out victors against Newcastle at Anfield. Henderson will also seek to put a dagger in Newcastle hearts following his years on the opposite side of the Tyne-Wear derby.
Liverpool should keep an eye on: Loic Remy and Yoan Gouffran are the most obvious protagonists, so should Liverpool keep these two quiet, it’s hard to see who else Newcastle can call upon to pose a threat to the Liverpool goal. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez alone have scored more league goals between them than Newcastle have scored as a team all season.