On Mane, I must admit that I’d always considered him a better player than Salah. But this season, when things have gone badly, it’s Salah who’s turned up and prevented them from getting even worse. What a player.
It’s absolutely caning down in West Bromwich. Good day to be in the Vine, one of England’s great football pubs.
Klopp tells Sky that his team knew it’d always come down to the final few games, but despite Jota’s injury he’s really looking forward to the challenge. He expects West Brom to be fresh and thinks their lie-up is slightly more offensive than usual, so he’s excited. Finally, he adds that Mané apologised to him for his Thursday night behaviour, and that’s the end of things.
So what do Liverpool have to do to get top four? Well, if they win their final three games, because Chelsea and Leicester meet again in midweek, that will be enough unless Chelsea win that and win their last game, while Leicester beat Spurs by what would necessarily need to be a big margin. Curently Leicester’s goal difference is better by one, but a defeat for them added to three Liverpool wins would leave them with a lot of work to do.
Spurs have beaten Wolves 2-0 and remain in the mix for a Europa League spot. Rob Smyth has all the reaction.
I guess the thing with Liverpool is whether these players can find the consistency that made them champions of Europe and England. Klopp has the ability to turn good players into world beaters, but that might not be sustainable over a succession of seasons – all the more so given Van Dijk will need to come back as good as before, not a certainty following a cruciate injury at 29. On the other hand, they know what it takes to win, and have enough goals in the team to be a threat.
I wonder what Jürgen Klopp’s priority will be for the summer. I’m sure he’ll want a proper centre-back – which will give him a roster of approximately 69 – but he needs something else to keep things ticking over. I’m not sure he’ll be allowed an attacker unless he lets one leave, and I’m not sure he’ll want to do that, but perhaps he’ll replace Wijnaldum if he goes. Liverpool have been on an incredible run of signings these last few years, but whether that means they’re likely to nail the next ones or that it’s impossible to sustain such success remains to be seen.
Elsewhere, Spurs lead Wolves 2-0. Follow the staggering denouement with Rob Smyth.
On this day in 1987, we were treated to one of the greatest cup final goals in one of the greatest cup finals. Read about that here:
As for Liverpool, Jota is injured so misses out with his place going to Mané – apparently he’s apologised for airing Klopp at the end of the United game. Otherwise, Williams replaces Rhys Williams at centre-back and Curtis Jones, who did well off the bench, is in for Wijnaldum. Back to next season – if that’s not a paradox – assuming Wijnaldum leaves but even if he doesn’t, it’ll be interesting to see whether Jones can insert himself into the first XI on a regular. He has that priceless ability to carry the ball through central areas, but needs to find way of getting more involved because when you play in there, never mind when you play in there for Klopp, you can’t allow games to pass you by.
West Brom makes two changes from their defeat against Arsenal, Robson-Kanu and Diangana coming in for Diagne and Robinson. I’m looking forward to watching Matheus Pereira, who I’m sure will have options in the summer and who I’m equally sure will be targeting the space in behind Alexander-Arnold – if his team can get him the ball.
West Bromwich Albion (a visionary 4-4-1-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Bartley, Ajayi, Townsend; Diangana, Yokuslu, Phillips, Pereira; Gallagher; Robson-Kanu. Subs: Button, Robinson, Livermore, Diagne, Peltier, O’Shea, Grant, Maitland-Niles, Gardner-Hickman.
Liverpool (an elemental 4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Williams, Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane. Subs: Adrian, Wijnaldum, Tsimikas, Shaqiri, Origi, Woodburn, Clarkson, Williams, Koumetio.
Star of the show: Mike Dean(Wirral)
Next season is going to be an absolute jazzer. Which seems a weird thing to write when this one hasn’t yet finished, but that was my overriding feeling watching Liverpool beat Manchester United on Thursday night, then again watching the cup final yesterday – and in one way or another, next season is what both of today’s teams are playing for.
If I’m running West Brom, I’m doing absolutely everything I can to retain the services of Not-insubstantial Samuel who, for all the obvious reservations, remains very good at what he does. It’s not been enough to keep his team up, but it’s been more than enough to earn him the chance to bring them back up, and I’d be shocked if his players didn’t think it too.
Liverpool, meanwhile, are looking like a team again, hanging in there at Old Trafford before imposing a directness and intensity either side of half-time that won them a valuable victory. Obviously the ultimate goal is to qualify for next season’s Champions League, but either way they showed there’s life left in this team, which is why next season could be so good. Though Manchester City will take some catching, Manchester United and Chelsea are getting there, while Liverpool won’t suffer the series of misfortunes that have befallen them over the last bit. Add to that the return of fans, and we could be looking at something very serious indeed.
Kick-off: 4.30pm BST