Vital Preview: Liverpool vs. Newcastle United
Barclays Premier League
Liverpool end an amazing and unpredictable 2013-14 Premier League season on Sunday with a home fixture against Newcastle United.
The second-placed Reds go into the final day knowing they can still lift the title should they win and leaders Manchester City suffer a surprise defeat at home to West Ham United.
Conversely they could slip to third should the Magpies come away from Anfield with three points and Chelsea, who sit two points back in third, defeat relegated Cardiff City.
Regardless of the outcome, it's a situation which signifies a phenomenal upturn in fortunes for a side who finished seventh and eighth in the previous two campaigns.
There is an understandable sense of frustration though as a first league championship for 24 years was there for the taking before a defeat against Chelsea, followed by Monday night's inexplicable 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace, handed the initiative to City.
Newcastle, meanwhile, go into the game in ninth and guaranteed a top-half finish despite an inconsistent and eventful campaign which originally promised so much more.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "We'll keep going right until the end of this season, knowing that we've improved a great deal, and look to continue our improvement into next season.
"In terms of Sunday, all we can do is win our own game, and send the supporters away happy - they have been brilliant for us this year. I think we have seen the true power of the Liverpool supporters this season.
"The team has been fantastic and they have shared in that. All we can do is win the game."
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew: "We need to go to Anfield and put in a top performance...
"We need to make sure that we start next season in the same position we started this season. We had a strong team and were challenging for Europe.
"But towards the back end of the season, we have not been that good. We need to accept that, accept the criticism and make the right calls."
Liverpool Team News:
Rodgers welcomes back midfielder Jordan Henderson from a three-game suspension this weekend. The England international's energy and composure have been sorely missed in recent weeks and his absence has been a contributing factor to the title seemingly slipping away. Henderson will probably replace Lucas Leiva while Philippe Coutinho could also return after dropping to the bench against Palace. On the final day of last season Rodgers handed a debut to 17-year-old Jordan Ibe and he could again include some youngsters amongst the replacements; Jordan Rossiter, Joao Carlos Teixeira and Jack Dunn are the most likely beneficiaries. On-loan duo Victor Moses and Aly Cissokho are unlikely to be retained so any appearance will be their last for the club. After the defensive deficiencies shown at Selhurst Park, vice captain Daniel Agger may replace either Martin Skrtel or, more likely, Mamadou Sakho at centre-back.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan, Gerrard, Henderson, Allen, Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge.
Player to watch: Luis Suarez
If the Uruguayan notches he will set a new 38-game Premier League goalscoring record, currently held jointly with Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer (31). Suarez scooped further individual accolades this week at the club's official end of season awards and from the Professional Writers' Association. The 27-year-old's emotional reaction at the final whistle against Palace showed how much a league title will mean to the former Ajax man.
Newcastle United Team News:
Senegalese forward Papiss Cisse has undergone knee surgery on a broken knee cap in Paris over the past few days and will miss the start of next season. Italian international full-back Davide Santon (hamstring), striker Sammy Ameobi (ankle) and utility man Ryan Taylor (knee) are also likely absentees. Youngster Adam Armstrong is also unavailable as a result of being on international duty with England Under-17s. On-loan Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy will play his final game for the club and has subsequently been linked with a summer move to Arsenal. After winning 3-0 against Cardiff last time out, changes are likely to be minimal.
Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett, Tiote, Anita, Sissoko, Gouffran, Shola Ameobi, Remy.
Player to watch: Loic Remy
The Frenchman looks destined for bigger and better things after an impressive year on Tyneside. Remy has scored double the amount of goals of anyone else in the famous black and white with 14, all of them coming in the league. The figure would surely have been higher if injuries hadn't restricted the 27-year-old to a total of just 27 appearances in all competitions. A technically efficient player, Remy is comfortable in possession and has a powerful left-foot. The former Marseille man who cost QPR £8million, seems set for a place at this summer's World Cup.
Match Facts & Stats
• Liverpool and Newcastle have met 158 times in their respective histories and the Reds hold the upper hand overall with 76 wins to 43 and 39 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 279 goals compared to a tally of 195 for the Geordies.
• Liverpool haven't lost at home to Newcastle for 20 years; an unbeaten run of 18 league matches since a 2-0 defeat in 1994.
• The high-scoring Merseysiders have scored three goals in four out of the last five meetings with Newcastle at Anfield.
• There has never been a goalless draw in 39 Premier League fixtures between these two sides.
• The reverse fixture at St James' Park back in October finished 2-2 as the Merseysiders twice came from behind through Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge.
• One more goal for the hosts and they will break the 100-goal barrier for the season. The all-time Premier League record is 103 set by Chelsea in 2010.
• Newcastle have won just one of their previous seven away league matches and have recorded only one victory over the teams in the top five so far this season (2-0 vs. Chelsea at St James' Park).
• The Magpies have lost all 13 of the league matches this season in which they have been losing at half-time - the worst record in the division.
Phil Dowd is the official appointed to oversee this contest. The Staffordshire based whistle blower has taken charge of 34 games so far this season, showing 153 yellow cards and 6 red. Dowd has previously overseen three league games involving Liverpool this term; November's 3-3 draw against neighbours Everton, a 3-2 away win over Fulham in February and the 4-0 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at the end of March. The 51-year-old has been a part of the Select Group of Referees who oversee Premier League fixtures since 2001.
So another season draws to a climax and what a season it has been. Very few people will have predicted the roller coaster ride of the previous nine months at the outset, although for us it's a shame the campaign didn't end a fortnight earlier!
Liverpool should at least finish on a high against a Newcastle side who have struggled since the turn of the year and who have not won on the final day since 2005-06.
Should we record a victory then who knows? West Ham are a hard team to play against and City could still come a cropper. Certainly in this season nothing is clear cut.
Whatever happens it's been a phenomenal campaign for the Reds which has bought a feel-good factor back to the club. Even if we miss out on a championship which was ours for the taking, every Liverpool fan should be proud of the endeavour of all the staff and players.
A bright future lies ahead.
Vital Liverpool predicts a 3-1 LFC win
This match marks the end of the domestic season. The 2014-15 Premier League campaign gets underway on August 16.
So that's what we think, how about you? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for the game below or vote in our poll to the right...
Click here to read our interview with a Newcastle fan
Click here to read former Red Mark Lawrenson's prediction
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