Around nine months ago we welcomed a new Premier League season with cautious optimism, and tomorrow we likely end it with mournful celebrations. Cliche as it is, it's amazing how the course of a season can influence expectations. August's cautious optimism focused on an outside chance at Champions League qualification; tomorrow's mournful celebrations will focus on a title challenge that fell short by the slimmest of margins. From feeling hopeful on the outside looking in to disappointment at not finishing high enough, it's been a strange, strange trip.
Oh, and one that could still end with a league title if West Ham defeat Manchester City and Liverpool secure all three points against Newcastle. There's always time for things to get even weirder. Like a goal apiece from Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing and lifelong Liverpool supporter Kevin Nolan getting the winner weird.
With a little more distance--and hopefully an early signing or two in the transfer window--I think the relatively restrained nature of the season-ending sentiment will give way to far more positivity. It really has been an incredible season for Liverpool, and there's plenty of reasons to believe that things will only improve from here.
There is, however, the small matter of finishing on a high note tomorrow, which Liverpool will hope to do against a Newcastle side that are on the second-worst form in the Premier League over the course of their last seven matches. They sealed Cardiff's relegation fate with a 3-0 win at St. James' Park last weekend, but they had lost six straight prior to their win over Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's side. With safety secured for most of the season (and without their manager for a good portion of the last few months), Newcastle have been on holiday.
Papiss Cisse will miss out after having knee surgery, while Davide Santon and Ryan Taylor are also ruled out for Alan Pardew. In the win over Cardiff, Pardew selected Tim Krul in goal, Mathieu Debuchy, Fabricio Coloccini, Michael Williamson, and Paul Dummett in defense, Vurnon Anita, Moussa Sissoko, Cheik Tiote, and Yoan Gouffran in the midfield, and Loic Remy and Shola Ameobi in attack.
Johnson Skrtel Agger Flanagan
The long-standing injury to Jose Enrique aside, Brendan Rodgers should have a full squad from which to choose for the first time since the win over Manchester City. On that day Daniel Sturridge limped off injured and Jordan Henderson received a straight red and a subsequent three-match ban; Sturridge looked livelier against Crystal Palace and should be ready to go again tomorrow, while Henderson's ban is up after missing out against Norwich City, Chelsea, and Palace.
Both should be included tomorrow in a side that will likely see few changes from the disapponting draw at Selhurst Park on Monday, and the only other change I would expect (or maybe guess, more accurately) is Daniel Agger in at the back for Mamadou Sakho. This isn't a "he's leaving so let him so goodbye" inclusion, because Rodgers' words yesterday imply that Agger has an important role in the squad and also expecting Agger to leave is not a world that I'm going to live in. This is a "he deserves playing time and, talented as Sakho is/will be, just give us some Agger already" selection.
Henderson should come straight into the midfield in place of Lucas, much to Twitter's glee, while I'd expect Joe Allen to retain his place and Philippe Coutinho to start on the bench once again. I can see the Brazilian starting if Sturridge is less than fully fit, but otherwise Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez should round out an attacking contingent that will look to get themselves a few goals.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM BST/10:00AM EST, with Sky Sports 2 carrying coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.