The team that lies 7th in the Premier League may not have anything to fight for but that does not mean that they will not fight.
Final day games are tricky. One has to go back to the 2011/2012 season for the last time the league went down the wire to determine the winner.
The two Manchester clubs then were level on points – 86 apiece – with City edging out United by a goal difference of eight.
It took a last gasp goal by Sergio Aguero to hand the Sky Blues their first Premier League title and set the tone for the years of domination ahead.
Back then, Liverpool was languishing in 8th place but with a shot at the Europa Cup by virtue of winning the League Cup.
The Wolves had already been relegated before that final game of the season.
Oh, how fortunes have turned.
City is still in that familiar place at the top with a single point lead. The Red Devils are a mess after firing the brooding José Mourinho mid-season and then bringing in the former super-sub, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, as temporary manager.
The Norwegian, who has since become the club’s permanent boss, is Europe’s second best manager in terms of win-loss ratio with 14 wins, two draws and a singular loss. His record, over a little less than half a season, had only been bettered by Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola. Which says more for the Spanish maestro than anything else.
Incidentally, that 2012 season was also the last time Liverpool had won any trophy and today, as powerful and rampant as the Reds may seem, they could still go wanting come June.
As close as the fight may seem, the northwest outfit with probably the most fan base globally, does not have the title in their hands.
Without Champion’s League distraction, Manchester City have only one final match against Brighton to play, and they are unlikely to bottle it.
Guardiola has honed his team to be incisive, efficient and terribly consistent.
Mid-season, with four trophies to chase, they may give in to the odd loss – they are humans after all – but at this final crucial stage, it would take a very brave (foolhardy?) gamble to bet against them prevailing over the Seagulls.
But we digress. The question at hand is, will Liverpool defeat Nuno Espírito Santo’s pack at home in their final match?
The odds are with them, a global fan base, not to say the roaring horde at Anfield are with them, and even the positive energy that emanates from this very same ground that had seen them put away Barcelona in a cavalier manner; some would say this fortress that is Anfield alone would throw a lowly opponent like Wolverhampton Wanderers to shreds, even before the first ball was kicked.
That, however cannot be further from the truth.
Wolves won when the teams last faced each other back in January in the FA Cup Third Round. To be fair, it was largely a second-string side for Liverpool with a number of academy players making their professional debuts for the club.
The visitors have also won each of their last three matches in the Premier League, coming into Anfield with their confidence high and a giant scalping to look forward to.
Santo has engineered his side into a tight, counter-attacking unit, particularly effective against better sides looking to possess the ball and constantly move forward.
So many times this season, they have caught a top six team on the back foot by soaking up their attacks, then slicing through their defence on the return, and powering goals in the process.
For the large part, Diego Jota has been Wolves’ big-game goalscorer. He scored in wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and a brace against Manchester United.
Against only Liverpool and Manchester City, have they failed to do so. Now, they have one final chance for a famous win and they will certainly be up for it.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have had an emotionally charged few weeks that started with a gruelling win against Newcastle in the league.
Divock Origi grabbed the winning goal for the Reds just minutes before full-time to keep their hopes of winning the league alive.
Then, at Camp Nou at the first leg of the Champion’s League semi-final, they suffered a crushing defeat to Barcelona, on the back of goals by Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
On Tuesday night, with odds stacked against them and missing key attacking players Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita, the mighty Reds thrashed a full strength Barcelona, recently crowned La Liga champions, 4-0 to progress into the final of Europe’s top competition.
Origi, the hero against Newcastle scored a brace, including the winning goal.
Having gone through so much over such a short span of time – three matches in a six-day period – will the players be tired both physically and mentally?
With a Champion’s League Final in the horizon, will Klopp be thinking whether it may be more important to focus on a match where victory will certainly assure them of trophy and glory, instead of throwing all chips into what is very likely a meaningless win?
Will tonight’s game be one too many for a side that is squad-thin and running on fumes?
Wolves have won four and drawn three of their eleven games against the teams who will finish the season above them.
Liverpool remain the only member of the top-six that they have yet to take points from this season.
As mentioned, that will serve as a strong motivation for a side looking to end on a high note and knowing that none of the top six had been able to complete a league double over them.
However, Wolves are guaranteed to finish in 7th place, regardless of Sunday’s result.
It is rumoured that Nuno may take the opportunity to start fringe players for the final game of the season although the first eleven would certainly not easily budge after such a long, hard fight to get to where they are.
If Wolves start with their strongest team and Liverpool, with the Champion’s League in consideration, start without theirs, it may be game-on for the visitors.
At the end of the day, 94 points is nothing to be ashamed of, even if it means losing the final match of the season.
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