Premier League Preview: How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Newcastle United
Liverpool go into their final game of the Premier League season needing a win against Newcastle United if they are to have any shot at winning the title, and the Reds will need West Ham United to accomplish a daunting task: Going to the Etihad Stadium and beating Manchester City.
After a thrilling win over City a few weeks ago made Liverpool fans dream about a first league title in 24 years, recent results against Chelsea and Crystal Palace have seriously derailed what had been a scintillating 11-game win streak.
A draw on Sunday would effectively guarantee a second-placed finish for the Anfield club, and while they will be ruing the chance to clinch the title, Brendan Rodgers’ men will rest assured that their progress this season has been admirable and encouraging for the future.
By contrast, Newcastle look to be in a shambles as a supporters’ group staged a walkout at St. James’ Park last week during their win over relegated Cardiff City. Having endured an uninspiring season, Alan Pardew has been the subject to public calls for his sacking, and he will take solace from the fact that the reverse fixture in October ended in a 2-2 draw.
Here is our Liverpool lineup for Sunday’s final day clash against Newcastle, in Rodgers’ tried and trusted 4-3-3 formation. Let us know your picks in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
Simon Mignolet will not have enjoyed picking the ball out of his net five times in his past two games, just as his teammates won't have been enamoured by picking up just a single point from those fixtures.
Newcastle’s attack hasn’t exactly been an inspiring force this season, but Mignolet will be eager to finish off his debut season at Anfield with a clean sheet.
Right-Back: Glen Johnson
For around 78 minutes on Monday, Liverpool fans were treated to the best of Glen Johnson: Marauding runs forward, getting into space to threaten the opposing goal and generally showing glimpses of why he has been known as one of England’s finest attacking full-backs over the years.
Unfortunately, the worst of Johnson was on full display as he was one of the most culpable for the Reds’ capitulation against Crystal Palace. He was exploited by the raw pace and energy of Yannick Bolasie, as well as his questionable defensive contributions in the buildup toward the Eagles’ quick-fire goals.
Johnson took to Twitter to hit back at his critics in the aftermath of the Palace draw, but he will need to prove himself on the pitch on Sunday.
Left-Back: Jon Flanagan
When he takes to the Anfield pitch this weekend and embarks on the post-season lap of honor after the match, Jon Flanagan will no doubt reflect on the progress he’s had over the past few months.
Not even in Brendan Rodgers’ first-team reckoning at the start of the season, Flanagan became his first-choice left-back in the second half of the campaign. It’s been one to remember.
Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel
Martin Skrtel has scored seven goals this season, a league best for defenders, but conversely he has been far from a consistently dominant presence in his own half.
His positioning was called into serious question in the buildup to Dwight Gayle’s dramatic equalizer for Crystal Palace last week, while doubts continue to persist over his long-term future under Brendan Rodgers.
Centre-Back: Mamadou Sakho
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher blasted the Liverpool defence for their troubles in recent weeks after the Palace draw, and the merits of starting Mamadou Sakho over Daniel Agger have since been widely questioned.
Still, Sakho represents the future and clearly has the abilities in his locker to become a top-class centre-back for Liverpool in years to come. If Agger does leave Anfield this summer, Sakho’s importance to the first team will grow exponentially.
Holding Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
At the final whistle at Selhurst Park on Monday, Steven Gerrard’s distress was clear for all to see. It was, after all, his costly error that handed Manchester City the impetus in this season’s title race.
But an otherwise excellent season was recognized with his second-place finish in the Football Writers' Player of the Year awards, and Gerrard can, and should, rightly hold his head up high, having led his young group of teammates toward an unlikely title charge.
Central Midfielder: Jordan Henderson
Amid the euphoria in the aftermath of the win over Manchester City, Jordan Henderson’s last-gasp red card was relatively unnoticed and unmentioned—a mere blemish on what had been a titular win.
Three games on, and his presence in the midfield has been missed. In his stead, Lucas has been a shocking disappointment and far from the force that Henderson has become this season. His return to the starting XI on Sunday will be welcome but how costly will his three-game suspension prove to be?
Attacking Midfielder: Philippe Coutinho
Liverpool fans will remember fondly Philippe Coutinho’s performance at St. James’ Park after his winter arrival last season, when he combined to brilliant effect with Daniel Sturridge in an excellent 6-0 win over Newcastle.
Coutinho was criticized for his performance in the draw at Palace on Monday, but it was his classy winner against City that got Reds fans dreaming in the first place. He’ll return to his favored No. 10 position in the last match of the campaign.
Right Forward: Raheem Sterling
From being considered a loan option for Swansea City, per Darren Lewis of The Mirror, to potentially forcing his way into the starting lineup for England in the World Cup this summer, Raheem Sterling has enjoyed a stellar rise to the top.
A goal on Sunday would make it 10 for the league season—just under one every three games—and put a fine cap on what has been a groundbreaking campaign for the young winger. He appears to have the world at his feet.
Left Forward: Luis Suarez
That Luis Suarez finished the season with just about a clean sweep of every major player award in the country and at the club was no surprise: His record-breaking achievements could yet go one step further with a goal on Sunday, which would see him go clear of Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo in the all-time single-season scoring charts.
Sunday will mark an end to what has been a scintillating campaign for the No. 7; Liverpool fans around the world will hope that it won’t be Suarez’s swansong in a Red shirt.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
He may have been overshadowed by Suarez’s exploits this season but take nothing away from Daniel Sturridge and his goalscoring accomplishments this term: A place on the PFA Team of the Year was fully deserved.
A goal on Sunday will see him making further progress on his comeback from injury and set him up well for a productive World Cup. But he’ll have other things on his mind when the match kicks off at Anfield against Newcastle, not least on the latest happenings at the Etihad.