By Mike Collett
An emotional Anfield will witness the end of an era on Saturday when Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard makes his final home appearance after more than 700 games and 17 years playing for his boyhood club.
Tickets that normally cost 47 pounds ($73.52) are on sale on the internet for more than 1,300 pounds such is the demand to see the Gerrard’s last match on home soil against Crystal Palace after his exceptional, glittering, one-club career.
Last week the former England skipper was part of a guard of honour saluting champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and this week Palace’s players are expected to line up and applaud him as he leads the team out of the Anfield tunnel for the last time.
After Saturday’s match, Liverpool have one game left at Stoke City on the final day of the Premier League season on May 24 when Gerrard, who turns 35 at the end of the month, will bid farewell to his adoring fans before joining LA Galaxy.
With Chelsea having won the title and Burnley and Queens Park Rangers already relegated, the only issues still be decided are who fills the third relegation spot and the destination of the three Europa League places.
Liverpool will clinch one of them with a win over 12th placed Palace who are chasing their highest finish in the Premier League era.
Liverpool still have a remote mathematical chance of making the top four but, wherever they finish, Gerrard will no doubt relish his last home appearances in a red shirt.
He said earlier this week, the spark went out of his game when manager Brendan Rodgers told the midfielder earlier this season that he would have a restricted role in the side.
“When a manager gets you into the office and says your role is going to change and it’s going to become more limited – that’s when you make your decision.
“It’s not a selfish thing but coming on as a sub is just not the same buzz so things have changed this year,” he said at a gala dinner for former Liverpool players.
Two matches that are likely to have an impact on both the Europa League and relegation spots are between Southampton and Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City.
Southampton and Spurs are in contention for European places while Villa and Hull need points to guarantee their safety.
Villa have improved since Tim Sherwood became manager in February and could also qualify for the Europa League by beating Arsenal in the FA Cup final on May 30.
Hull slipped into the bottom three after losing 1-0 on Saturday at home to Burnley, who were subsequently relegated because of other results.
Five clubs – Villa, Hull, free-falling Newcastle United, who visit QPR, Sunderland and Leicester City, who face each other, are still in danger of going down with only four points separating Villa on 38 and Hull on 34.
The key relegation scrap is at Sunderland, who improved their chances of staying up after winning 2-0 at Everton last week while Leicester look set to escape after winning six of their last seven.
Unlike in the past when Manchester United played Arsenal and titles or cups depended on the outcome, all that is at stake at Old Trafford on Sunday is who will finish higher in the top four and qualify for the Champions League group stage.
The fourth-placed team will have to successfully negotiate a potentially tricky Champions League playoff round.
Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion will be in a relaxed mood when they meet at The Hawthorns with Jose Mourinho’s side having won the title and the Baggies safe in mid-table.