The 2019/20 Premier League season has felt like it’s been dragging on for a whole host of reasons this year, however it finally comes to an end this Sunday.
In what will hopefully be our last game at St James’ Park under Mike Ashley’s ownership, the champions come to town a matter of days on from their trophy lift and wild celebrations at Anfield.
With that in mind, we’ll have to hope Klopp’s men are hungover and wearing their flip flops ahead of a well deserved summer holiday here, although recent performances have proved they can still blow you in third gear!
For us the game means very little, with us only able to finish 13th or 14th going into the final weekend of football, however Steve Bruce will be aware that a win would mean he’s surpassed Rafa Benitez’s best points tally (45 in 2018/19) in his first year in charge.
He’ll say it means nothing and a thing of the past, but you can be sure he’ll privately be keen to prove the doubters wrong with a victory on that front.
(5-3-1-1): Dubravka – Manquillo, Hayden, Fernandez, Rose, Ritchie – Shelvey, Bentaleb, Almiron – Saint-Maximin – Gayle.
In goal, Dubravka will become one of few Premier League players not to have missed a minute all season. While ASM’s moments of magic have lit up our season, the Slovakian deserves our player of the year award for me.
At the back, we saw Krafth and Rose play either side of Fernandez at Brighton, but with the Swede a doubt and five of our six senior centre-backs remaining sidelines, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hayden slots in given the lack of options and likelihood that we start with five at the back against top opposition. Elsewhere, Fernandez could play in the centre and Rose continuing as a left-sided centre-back after doing a decent job in that unfamiliar role last time out.
A defence consisting of a midfielder, centre-back and a left-back, but Bruce’s pre-match comments suggested U-23 talent Kelland Watts won’t be thrown in for his Premier League debut against Salah, Mane and Firmino after ‘five months’ without football.
Manquillo seems likely to continue at right wing-back, with Yedlin’s time on Tyneside seemingly coming to an end, while Ritchie seems like our only option down the left should Bruce continue with his old system.
In midfield, I’ve noticed Bentaleb and Shelvey have been joined by Almiron at times over the past two games, with the Paraguayan seeming to drop in to form a three without the ball and spring forward when we regain possession.
Hayden is an option if Bruce feels he’s fit and finds a way of sorting out our injury ravaged defence without him, while Sean Longstaff is ‘touch and go’ after returning to training, however I’d imagine we’ll get one last look at our Schalke loanee alongside Shelvey and an energetic Almiron.
Ahead of that trio could well be Saint-Maximin – a player who seems to thrive more in a central role and our biggest weapon if we’re to hurt this Liverpool side in attack.
Then, last but not least, Gayle seems likely to lead the line again after scoring more goals since lockdown than Joelinton has all season.
His movement and energy has been one of the positives to take since football returned, with him improving in front of goal and giving the likes of Shelvey a real target to hit.
There’s not enough superlatives to describe just how good this Jurgen Klopp machine has been this season.
An unbelievable team with incredible drive, quality and consistency who’ve absolutely obliterated every team in their way this season.
In this section I usually pick out the ‘ones to watch’, but they all deserve a mention if we’re being honest. Allison has been that reliable presence they’ve lacked in the past, Van Dijk unbeatable at the back and an absolute man mountain, Alexander-Arnold an assist-king who’s offered more in attack than most Premier League strikers from right-back, Robertson tenacious and influential at both ends, a midfield full of energy, ideas and intensity and a devastating front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino who link up incredibly and score goals for fun.
Whether you love or loath them, this is one hell of a team!
Steve Bruce has confirmed that Emil Krafth is struggling with a ankle injury, but Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff are training again and in contention to return.
Federico Fernandez remains out only fit senior centre-back, with Jamaal Lascelles (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Ciaran Clark (ankle), Florian Lejeune (thigh) and Paul Dummett (ineligible) all out.
As a result, U-23 talent Kelland Watts should be in the squad again, however it remains to be seen if Bruce will hand him his Premier League debut.
Jurgen Klopp has no new injury worries, with captain and newly-crowned ‘Footballer of the Year’ Jordan Henderson and centre-back Joel Matip set to miss out once again.
Liverpool were hammered at Man City the last time they played so soon after celebrating their title win, however it’s fair to say no one is expecting a repeat here – even if they do arrive to St James’ Park with sore heads and half an eye on their summer holidays.
They’ve been professional and a model of consistency all season, making a habit of winning games even when they’re well below their best, so we’ll have to be at it in all areas here to keep their attacking trio at bay AND somehow find a way past Virgil Van Dijk and Co at the other end.
It would be nice to end the season positively and sign off in style, but I’m struggle to see anything other than a win for the visitors here!
Prediction: Newcastle 0-2 Liverpool