Tickets have been changing hands for well over £1,200 for this match and there is only one reason for this level of interest in a game that has little bearing on either club’s fortunes.
Liverpool’s quest for a Champions League place all but disappeared last weekend and so it looks like it will be the generally unwanted and unloved Europa League for them next season. Meanwhile, Palace have been coasting in mid-table for a month, enjoying the luxury of a stress-free end to the season, even if four defeats on the trot have somewhat taken the shine off the Pardew revolution. Neither Warnock nor Pulis ever suffered such a run of losses.
So by all rights, the focus for both teams should be all about building for next season and gaining some momentum before the close. But of course it is nothing to do with the teams, it is all to do with one individual as Steven Gerrard plays his last match at Anfield.
Whatever one may think about his talents, his loyalty to Liverpool has been unswerving and this sets him apart from the vast majority of players. One-club men are as rare as hen’s teeth and with over 700 games for the Reds, many as captain, over a career spanning almost twenty years, the kerfuffle over his departure to the lure of LA is almost justified.
It should be borne in mind that this is not simply a testimonial for Gerrard but a league fixture and Palace can poop the party. The concern for Palace is that the overriding sense of emotion will sweep away all before it including the referee Jon Moss, who has been known to favour the big clubs when making decisions, and so the smart money has been piling on Gerrard notching a penalty, no doubt in front of a delirious Kop.
With much improved displays against Chelsea and Manchester United in the last two weeks, the hope is that we might actually get something out of the trip to Liverpool apart from the train home.
It will be a particularly poignant match for the newly anointed Player of the Year, Scott Dann, who was born in Liverpool and was a season ticket holder at Anfield. It would be deliciously ironic if Dann were to ruin Gerrard’s big day with another dominant performance and also notch the winning goal. Now the odds for that would certainly be a lot more attractive than for Gerrard’s fairytale farewell.
Richard’s first book The A-Z of Football Hates is available online and at bookshops.
His second book The Agony & The Ecstasy will be out next week and is available either as hardback or an e-book via www.ockleybooks.co.uk