It’s Liverpool’s final home game of a season that has been full of incident on and off the field. It’s unfair to class it as a meaningless fixture, and that applies especially to Emiliano Insua who is given a chance in the first team. Rafa has high hopes for the youngster, and he may find himself used in more meaningful fixtures next season.
The game still makes no difference to Liverpool’s final league position, which is fourth, but three points in front of a full house would help Liverpool end the season with a gap from the top more respectable than last season.
It’s a day of farewells of course, as the last home game of the season always is. Some of the names won’t be back at Anfield – unless like Manchester City’s Didi Hamman (sub today) it’s in the shirt of an opposing team. And it’s not just those on the field who might be making their last appearance at the ground as a representative of LFC.
Insua’s fellow full-back for today is Steve Finnan, with no sign of Wednesday’s pair John Arne Riise or Alvaro Arbeloa. Carragher and Hyypia play centrally today, both players knowing that they will be in danger of playing far less games next season than this with Daniel Agger set to come back from injury and Martin Skrtel – on the bench today – putting in a strong claim to be his partner.
Xabi Alonso is strongly rumoured to be on his way, the rumour strengthened by Liverpool’s bid for Gareth Barry, and he’s on the bench today. His place is taken by Lucas, playing alongside Mascherano.
The front four that have become pretty-much first choice is on show today, Babel, Kuyt and Gerrard all starting, with Torres recovered from the tight hamstring that had been given as a reason for his withdrawal on Wednesday night.
Yossi Benayoun, Andriy Voronin and Charles Itandje make up the rest of the bench, Rafa deciding not to give any chances to any of Insua’s fellow youngsters, most of whom will be involved in the North v South reserves play-off final at Anfield on Wednesday night against Villa.
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 4 Hyypia, 23 Carragher, 48 Insua, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 19 Babel, 9 Torres
Subs: 30 Itandje, 10 Voronin, 11 Benayoun, 14 Alonso, 37 Skrtel
Man City: 25 Hart, 16 Corluka, 22 Dunne, 3 Ball, 17 Jihai, 12 Vassell, 7 Ireland, 6 Johnson, 15 Petrov, 11 Elano, 27 Benjani
Subs: 1 Isaksson, 28 Gelson, 30 Castillo, 21 Hamann, 24 Garrido
Referee: Mark Halsey