Cole starts as Liverpool end season in hunt for 5th

Liverpool go into their last game of the season with a chance of qualifying for Europa League football next season. For that to happen the team currently in fifth, Spurs, need to drop points against Birmingham, who are battling for survival in the Premier League. Defeat for Spurs would mean Liverpool need a point, a draw for Spurs would mean Liverpool need all three. The Reds are best going out aiming for all three and letting the other game run its course.

Sixth place is guaranteed whatever happens today and that would be no disgrace for Kenny Dalglish’s side, who were down in twelfth and in danger of getting dragged into the relegation battle under Roy Hodgson. There is every chance that had Hodgson remained this game would have seen Liverpool fighting for survival and today’s Liverpool keeper playing his last game for the club.

Pepe Reina is going nowhere this summer and starts in goal, with a back four containing one name unlikely to be involved next season. Fabio Aurelio was given a reprieve last summer after the original decision had been taken not to offer him a contract but his injury issues never went away and this may well be his final game in a Liverpool shirt.

There’s no place in the squad for Glen Johnson; John Flanagan starts with Jack Robinson on the bench. Also on the bench is Andre Wisdom, a player from the Academy for whom there is much hope, alongside Wilson who perhaps needs more time before being ready for the first team. Carragher and Skrtel start at centre-back, meaning Skrtel has been an ever-present in the league this season. Kyrgiakos doesn’t figure in the 18.

Another player who might be playing his last game for the Reds is Joe Cole. His first season at the club has been a disappointment, injuries and a lack of match fitness limiting his chances, chances he didn’t take too well when they did come. This is an opportunity for him to show other clubs that he might be worth a punt, although it may require a substantial drop in wages for that to happen.

Liverpool have to make do without Maxi Rodriguez today but Raul Meireles does get himself back in the starting line-up. Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez start but Andy Carroll didn’t make the match squad.

In goal for Aston Villa is one of Liverpool’s former keepers, Brad Friedel, with former Liverpool forward Emile Heskey on the Villa bench. Ex-Red Gary McAllister takes charge of the home side today with manager, and former Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier still recovering from his recent heart problems.

One of today’s travelling Reds is no doubt fulfilling a dream despite already fulfilling the dream of most Reds fans. Steven Gerrard is sitting in the away end.

Aston Villa: 1 Friedel, 2 L Young, 5 Dunne, 29 Collins, 36 Walker, 6 Downing, 7 Young, 16 Delph, 19 Petrov, 20 Reo-Coker, 39 Bent

Subs: 33 Marshall, 21 Clark, 8 Pires, 12 Albrighton, 13 Bradley, 11 Agbonlahor, 18 Heskey

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 38 Flanagan, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 6 Aurelio, 26 Spearing, 21 Lucas, 4 Meireles, 10 Cole, 18 Kuyt, 7 Suarez

Subs: 42 Gulacsi, 22 Wilson, 47 Wisdom, 49 Robinson, 28 Poulsen, 33 Shelvey, 24 Ngog