Liverpool’s final game of 2019/20 sees the Reds head to Newcastle, with Jurgen Klopp free to pick whatever team he wishes with nothing to play for on either side.
The Reds have enjoyed a momentous and memorable season, winning three trophies to add to last year’s Champions League.
Most recent among the quartet is, of course, the Premier League trophy itself, with the Reds picking up the title a month ago and collecting the silverware in midweek after a 5-3 win over Chelsea.
This time out there’s far less at stake, with neither team having any real final targets to achieve and a seven-week break ahead of us before the 20/21 season resumes.
It gives Jurgen Klopp full scope to select whichever players he wants: full strength, opportunities for youngsters, a chance to impress for squad members of farewell appearances for those set to depart.
The boss has no new real injury worries ahead of the game, though a couple of the squad are still set to miss out.
Jordan Henderson is of course injured, despite his trophy lift antics, and Joel Matip is similarly sidelined until the summer.
Other than that duo, the rest should be available for selection, with the likes of James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Dejan Lovren overcoming knocks in recent weeks.
More likely to affect the boss’ team selection is the fact several players could be moving on.
Adam Lallana hasn’t featured so as not to jeopardise his move away on a free transfer, and the same could be the case for Dejan Lovren with the news that Russian side Zenit have made a bid for around £11 million.
Nathaniel Clyne has already left and there have been various rumours of Divock Origi, Gini Wijnaldum and Shaqiri following—though all have been involved in recent weeks.
Newcastle have a long injury list at present, particularly in defence.
Fabian Schar, Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles, Emil Krafth and Florian Lejeune are all likely absentees from the back line, while Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff are central midfield absentees.
Liverpool’s XI vs. Newcastle
The first option for Klopp would be to ensure the Reds go out on a high by winning their final game and ending the season on 99 points.
His best way of doing that might just be a case of same again: the XI which started against Chelsea might do so at St. James’ Park, with the midfield balance good against Frank Lampard’s side and goals coming from all over the pitch.
Wijnaldum and Naby Keita had a particularly good balance in the centre of the park, the front three created chances and the full-backs got forward plenty.
There are some who see this as potentially the strongest Liverpool side in terms of tactical balance and technical ability anyway, but in Henderson’s absence and with no real challenger across the defence right now, it’s a clear best 11 available.
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Alternatively, the boss might look to the future and assess potential options for next year.
While Lovren might not be risked ahead of a sale, taking another look at Fabinho in the back line is an option in case a suitable fourth defender can’t be found over summer at the right price.
In that case, a spot opens up in midfield and Curtis Jones might be given another chance to show what he can do, with the young Scouser looking every inch the part of a first-team player for the Reds off the bench in recent weeks.
James Milner could also be thanked for his campaign with a first start since the first game back post-lockdown.
There could also be a starting chance for Takumi Minamino, who needs to be more fully integrated into the side ahead of a more prominent role in 20/21.
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner, Jones; Salah, Minamino, Mane.
With the trophy lifted, the season over and even Newcastle not having much to play for, this could be a procession for the Reds and an exhibition of football being enjoyed.
Alternatively, the home side could just sit in and try not to be hammered on their own patch, making for a slower grind of a 90 minutes.
Either way, Liverpool are champions and we’ll have to try and beat both types of opponents next year all over again, so it’s a final good chance to practice!