Brendan Rodgers’ Reds host Crystal Palace on Saturday for the final Anfield fixture of the season looking to end the season positively in front of the home crowd. Ben Twelves looks at the Liverpool lineup options.
Liverpool take to the Anfield surface for the final time this season on Saturday afternoon, when they host Alan Pardew’s side on a day that promises to be an emotional occasion.
The Reds have nothing to play for over the remaining two fixtures with Champions League hopes now officially ended – barring maximum points and an unrealistic goal-swing – but Saturday’s game will mark the last Anfield appearance of an unrivalled Liverpool career for inspirational captain, Steven Gerrard, who will wear a Liver bird upon his chest in front of the Kop for the final time.
Gerrard: "I'm proud of what I've achieved here. I grew up dreaming of playing for Liverpool just one time."
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) May 14, 2015
As his illustrious 17-year stay draws to a close, the 34-year-old is set to lead his team-mates out of the Anfield tunnel for one final occasion against the Eagles – a club Gerrard is set to make his 9th career appearance against – who have only ever won one league encounter on Merseyside, back in 1991, and arrive this time off the back of four straight defeats.
Despite the historic occasion, the Reds, and Gerrard, will want to ensure of a positive end to the season beginning with a win in front of the Anfield crowd, and with nothing riding on the clash, Rodgers could utilise some of the younger members of the Reds squad.
In keeping with recent weeks, little has changed over the squad available to Rodgers who has a strong group to choose from, but the Reds boss will again be without Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge, with the match also likely to come too early for Mamadou Sakho to start, despite the Frenchman having returned to training.
Rodgers says nothing new on squad. Sakho has been pictured back in training this week though.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) May 15, 2015
Their absences still leaves a large and talented squad for the Northern Irishman to pick from – though desperately short of genuine striking quality – and with plenty of options available, Rodgers could freshen up his side introducing some more of the Club’s young talent with nothing riding on the game.
Ahead of academy products being thrown in though, Alberto Moreno and Lucas Leiva are both pushing for recalls to the defence and midfield, as is Joe Allen, and Lazar Markovic will be hopeful of making a return to the squad after disappointingly being left at home for the Reds trip to Stamford Bridge last week.
Having come on as second half substitute’s in the draw at Chelsea, teenage duo Jordon Ibe and Jerome Sinclair will be looking to go one step further and grab a place in the starting XI alongside Gerrard – something that would see Sinclair make his full league debut – who could again form the Reds midfield alongside vice-captain Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho.
With Fabio Borini frozen out and Sinclair with only 22 minutes of Premier League action to his name, Rickie Lambert could make a third successive start for the first time since early December to lead the Reds attack once again as he goes in search of his first Anfield goal, should Rodgers decide against utilising Raheem Sterling as a striker.
Rodgers’ experiment of using the 3-4-2-1 formation appears to be over with the Reds manager having opted for 4-3-3 for a number of fixtures over recent weeks, and therefore the Ulsterman could set his team up in the back four shape once again.
Simon Mignolet and the defence ahead of him is likely to remain unchanged, though with nothing riding on games, Rodgers should heavily consider playing those who will form the future of the club such as Moreno at left-back over those departing in just a few weeks like Glen Johnson.
In midfield, Henderson and Coutinho should be the men to be given the honour of lining up alongside the club’s best ever player for his last Anfield match. But in attack Rodgers has a number of interesting options at his disposal, where he should drop the struggling Lambert to deploy a mobile front three of Ibe, Lallana and Sterling.
With those changes, Liverpool would line up looking like this on Saturday afternoon:
Alternatively, Rodgers could switch the system slightly to 4-2-3-1, accommodating for more midfield solidity, freeing up more attacking options in the final third.
The Reds boss could choose to make one change to his back line bringing in Moreno for Johnson, and also make alterations to the midfield, which could see Lucas come in alongside Henderson, as the Brazilian too could make his Anfield farewell ahead of an increasingly possible summer exit.
The duo anchoring in midfield allows Rodgers to deploy a creative attacking set-up where and Coutinho, Sterling and Gerrard could play in support of Lambert, who could also be in line for one last Anfield outing.
That switch in system and personnel would see the Reds look like this come 5:30pm kick-off time at Anfield:
Steven Gerrard: "I'm looking forward to the match, I want to finish on a high."
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) May 14, 2015
While there is nothing to play for, it’s essential the Reds stay focussed to continue a positive end to the season and hand the Captain one last win in what promises to be an emotional occasion in his last performance in front of the adoring Kop.
Pick your XI: