Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says that his side will not give up on the Premier League title despite the odds being stacked against them on Sunday's final day.
Rodgers needs leaders Manchester City to lose at home to West Ham United and for his side to beat Newcastle United at Anfield to become the first Liverpool manager to oversee a top-flight championship success since 1990. Rodgers is clinging to the hope that West Ham-- and former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll - can pull off a dramatic upset to bring the title to Anfield.
"It's certainly not over," said Rodgers, who will welcome back midfielder Jordan Henderson from suspension. "The expectancy is on Manchester City to win, but it won't be easy for them. We know that's a tough game.
"West Ham have some really talented players. If you can go to Tottenham and win 3-0, you can certainly go to Manchester City and win, especially with guys like big Andy up front and the quality he has. They also have a really good defensive record, which shows they are a difficult team to play against."
Liverpool's late collapse to draw 3-3 with Crystal Palace on Monday night allied to City's mid-week 4-0 win over Aston Villa has shifted the balance of power even further in the direction of the Etihad Stadium. But whether results go Liverpool's way or not, Rodgers believes that his team will build on their progress from seventh place last season to a guaranteed top-two finish and a place in the UEFA Champions League.
"I want to congratulate my players on this season," he said. "We have had a remarkable season and the players have put Liverpool on the world map again in terms of what we are looking to achieve here as a club. The performance level has been exceptional throughout the course of the season and come Sunday we will fight to the very end. If we win the game and end up not winning the title, to finish second to the richest team in the history of sport really shows the measure and progress we have made here.
"For us it's really only the beginning. I have had two years here and we have been progressing. This year we've made a step. I see and hear that other teams will improve, but I think we will improve dramatically as well next season. The young players have gone through an experience that can only bode well for them for the future. Players like Steven Gerrard, 33 years of age and it's his first sample of this type of run-in, and he will be better next year also."
Newcastle will be without Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse, who is expected to be sidelined for several months after undergoing surgery on a fractured kneecap on Thursday. Newcastle have not won at Anfield since 1994, but despite that record, under-pressure manager Alan Pardew says that his side will not make life easy for Liverpool.
"We have to make sure we uphold the integrity of the league and give them as hard a game as we can. We desperately want to win," said Pardew. "It's going to be a great atmosphere because Brendan Rodgers has done an unbelievable job. For me, he's got a great chance to be manager of the year, and rightly so."
Pardew is not in such a healthy position, but he hopes that forthcoming talks with club owner Mike Ashley will safeguard his position and lead to improvements next season. "It's very important to talk about the season. In the first half we were one of the best in the Premier League, there's no doubt about that," he said. "In the second half, we weren't, and it wasn't good enough for this club. We need to face that and find a solution."