By Padraig O’Callaghan – @AGameOfTwoHalfz
Liverpool welcome Wolves to Anfield for the final game of the 2018/19 Premier League season. This is the Reds’ final shot at securing the Premier League title but can only do so if Manchester City drop points against Brighton.
It’s been quite the week for Liverpool, Vincent Kompany’s wonder strike put City back in control of the league, leaving Liverpool fans dejected. They then had the small matter of overturning a three goal deficit in the Champions League.
Liverpool and Anfield went on to produce the best European comeback in history as they scored four without response to send them to a second Champions League final is as many seasons.
Wolves have had a remarkable season – coming up from the Championship this time last year, they now have the opportunity to finish in seventh place. This position could be enough for the Europa League, but only if Watford fail to win their final game.
Liverpool overcame Newcastle 3-2 in their last league game – being pegged back twice, before Divock Origi netted the winner late on. Virgil van Dijk headed home from a corner, before Christian Atsu levelled after good work down the right side from Newcastle. Salomon Rondon levelled things at 2-2 cancelling out Salah’s smart finish after a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Divock Origi proved to be the difference heading home from a Xherdan Shaqiri free kick. Liverpool were really struggling in the final half hour, Mohamed Salah’s substitution due to injury sapped all momentum from Liverpool and they failed to register a single shot before Origi’s late goal.
Liverpool produced another famous night at Anfield against Barcelona, overturning a 3-0 deficit from the first leg to win 4-0 on the night and progress 4-3 on aggregate. Liverpool hassled and hounded the La Liga Champions, and the famous Anfield atmosphere seemed to crush the Catalans.
Divock Origi scored the only goal of the first half after good work from Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson saw the Belgian score after the skipper’s shot was saved. Barcelona had a couple of chances to put the tie beyond Liverpool but Jordi Alba, Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi all fluffed their lines.
The start of the second half saw Gini Wijnaldum replace Robertson who went off injured after being clipped by ex-red Luis Suarez. Within 12 minutes of the restart Liverpool were level on aggregate, a quick-fire double from the substitute Dutchman had Barcelona rattled and Anfield bouncing.
Divock Origi proved to be the match winner for the second time in a couple of days, but all credit has to go to Alexander-Arnold. A quickly taken corner found the Belgian free in the six-yard box, with the Catalans napping he dispatched it high into the net to send Anfield into delirium.
Liverpool completed the seemingly impossible and will now go to Madrid to face Tottenham Hotspur with the Reds as clear favourites to win the competition.
Wolves have the average form you would expect a team fighting for the Champions League to show over the last 10 games in that they have amassed 20 points from 30. They are unbeaten in four and have won their last three. Nuno Espirito Santo’s have usually preformed well against the so called big six and have taken at least a point from each except for one – Liverpool. We are the only team above Wolves to come away from the Molineux with maximum points and dominated proceedings in the reverse fixture.
Their recent three wins have come at home to Fulham, Arsenal and away to Watford. They struggled against Watford and Fulham, needing goals beyond the 75th minute to win all three points. They were handed victory over Arsenal in a 3-1 win with all three of Wolves’ goals being scored in the first half. If Liverpool are to play their usual game then it should be a routine victory on the day.
Roberto Firmino is not available for the final league match, but the Brazilian should be available in three weeks’ time for the Champions League final, but a lack of match sharpness might be a problem closer to that time.
Henderson, Robertson and Salah are all nursing recent injuries but should be available to make the final matchday squad.
Adam Lallana returned to training alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with only three midfielders available to Jurgen Klopp the duo should be in close contention for starting.
Henderson and Robertson both played through pain on Tuesday, so I would expect the duo to start on the bench. Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain will replace the duo in the starting line-up.
Milner will come in for Robertson but other than that the usual suspects will start, they have conceded 22 goals and have kept 20 clean sheets, the same as Man City. So, there will be desire to keep a clean sheet and have the overall best defence in the league.
Fabinho and Wijnaldum will start in midfield along with Chamberlain, it will be important for the Ox to get minutes under his belt in preparation for the CL final should his presence be required.
Salah will replace Shaqiri in the front three with Origi being supported by the Egyptian and Sadio Mane.
Wolves have used the fewest number of players in the league this season, though they bumped this number up last week by playing a bunch of the reserves. Nuno Espirito Santo rarely rotates his starting XI we should expect the same on Sunday, he should play is full strength team with the prospect of a potential place in Europe already confirmed for next season as they will finish in seventh place.
Rui Patricio will start in goal, the Portuguese international has kept nine clean sheet and conceded 44 goals in the league this season. They play with a back three with two advanced full backs, but when defending the wide men can drop back to make it a back five. Matt Doherty and Castro are the starting wide men, with Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Ryan Bennett the three centre backs.
Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker is one of the better midfield trio’s in the league. In Dendoncker they possess a player who can break up play and pass it on to Neves and Moutinho who can dictate play from deep. Ruben Neves is one to watch out for, he has an excellent record of finding the back of the net from outside the box. He has scored more goals from distance then he has touches in the opposition box showcasing how deep he sits.
Up front, Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez have registered 21 goals between them. It is quite an old school partnership – one tall, physical striker and the other small and nimble. Jimenez not only is their highest scorer with 13 but also their second highest assist maker with seven proving what a threat the Mexican striker is in all aspects of his game.
Last five results
24-09-2011 – Liverpool 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers Premier League
31-01-2012 – Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-3 Liverpool Premier League
28-01-2017 – Liverpool 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers FA Cup
21-12-2018 – Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Liverpool Premier League
07-01-2019 – Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Liverpool FA Cup
For Liverpool to win the league they have to gain maximum points while hoping Chris Hughton and Brighton can take points off Man City. While it seems unlikely, after Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s events everything seems like it is possible now.
Hopefully if Liverpool go two or three goals ahead we will be able to give a couple of minutes to those who need it most, it was our squad depth that cost us challenging in the Champions League final last year. Now we have better players on the bench to change the game. Lallana, Ox and Gomez can all come on and change the game, so it will be important to give them much need time on the pitch to increase fitness.
I think Liverpool will win 3-0, Salah to score a brace to cement his place on the top of the scoring charts and Mane to score to finish off a personal best season for him. If things don’t go our way, we can still be immensely proud of what this team has achieved and send them off to Madrid with a hero’s reception. We all hope and pray Man City drop points, but whoever comes out top in this remarkable season deserves to win it.
Final score: Liverpool 3 (Salah x2, Mane) – 0 Wolves