By Padraig O’Callaghan – @AGameOfTwoHalfz
Liverpool welcome ex-manager Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace side to Anfield for the next match of the 18/19 Premier League season, hoping to maintain the four point gap over title rivals Manchester City.
Liverpool showed their resilient form against Brighton and Hove Albion which we have seen at the beginning of the season, only needing one goal to get all three points. Once Mohamed Salah converted the penalty which he won, they were little doubts in the players and fans minds that the win was wrapped up thanks to our superb defence.
Crystal Palace have been on mixed form of late, winning twice in their last five games, picking up a point from the remaining three. One of those wins was a fine 3-2 victory over Manchester City at the Etihad. Coming back from behind they earned a result which shocked the rest of England.
Liverpool returned to winning ways last week, picking up a valuable three points after a hard-fought game against Chris Hughton’s Brighton. Despite the scoreline suggesting that the match was a tight affair, Liverpool were very dominant. Brighton never got a sniff at goal and failed to score a goal at home for the first time this season, they didn’t even have a shot on target.
At the other end of the pitch, we were very, very close on a handful of occasions. Both Salah and Xherdan Shaqiri should have done better with the chances they had. Firmino missed out on a cross by a matter of inches and Sadio Mane could have scored a brace.
A single goal was only needed in the end, meaning the Reds have won by that score line five times this season, showing defensive resilience is always a vital thing to have in a title race.
As aforementioned, Crystal Palace have been in mixed form as of late, two excellent wins against Manchester City and Wolves showed how good Roy Hodgson’s side can be. Their downfall is lack of consistency, however.
They currently sit four points above the relegation zone, therefore they cannot afford to show the inconsistency they showed in past weeks otherwise they will be in real trouble come the end of the season. If they are to avoid relegation, they need their big players to step up once again.
Jurgen Klopp has two new faces in the physio room this week: Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to be unavailable for the next 2-4 weeks. Despite declaring himself match fit, Gini Wijnaldum will probably be rested, after picking up a knock last week. Jurgen Klopp now has a host of first teamers out injured but the situation should ease up once Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren return to training next week.
Alisson Becker, who has kept a league high 13 clean sheets this season will once again keep guard of the net. Joel Matip should return to the starting XI partnering van Dijk in central defence. Andy Robertson, who signed a new five year contract on Thursday, will start at left back with James Milner likely to replace the injured Trent.
Fabinho will start in his favoured position after starting at centre-back in his last two outings. Jordan Henderson will replace injury doubt Gini Wijnaldum giving the Dutchman a much-earned rest. Sadio Mane and Naby Keita will start in wide positions, allowing both Salah and Firmino to start up front.
Roy Hodgson has a goal keeper injury crisis on his hands, both his first choice and substitute goalkeepers are ruled out due to muscle injuries. Meaning 39-year-old Julian Speroni is expected to make his first league appearance for the first time since December 2017.
James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho will start at centre-back. Patrick van Aanholt and Wan-Bissaka are expected to start in wide positions. Similarly, to Manchester City, Roy Hodgson will again try and limit Liverpool to little space by fielding a midfield five. Andros Townsend and Jeff Schlupp will line up on the flanks.
James McArthur, Max Meyer and Luka Milivojevic are all expected to start in central midfield. Meyer will look to join Wilfried Zaha in attack when the opportunity arises. Liverpool defenders will need to be careful sliding into tackles in the box, Milivojevic has a tremendous success rate from the spot.
Danger Man: Wilfried Zaha
Since Wilfried Zaha returned to Selhurst Park after an unsuccessful spell at Manchester United, the Ivorian international has shone, playing a predominant role as to why the London based club haven’t slipped back into the lower divisions of English football.
In his last two seasons he has scored 16 goals and provided a further 16 from a wide position, to do this while playing for a mid-table club with players like Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham up front is very, very impressive. His continued good form over the last couple of seasons, have seen him linked with a move to both Liverpool and Tottenham, but moves have failed to materialise due to Crystal Palace’s ridiculous demands.
This season however, his form a slightly dipped. Due to Benteke’s injury, Roy Hodgson has deployed him as a striker. Playing in this position has meant Zaha can be left quite isolated due to the nature of how Crystal Palace play. He has found the net three times in 19 appearance and laid three for his teammates.
None the less, Wilfried Zaha can be a very dangerous player on his day, thanks to his explosive power and close ball control. Van Dijk has been largely untested this season, coming out on top of pretty much every striker he has faced, and it should be no different on Saturday.
Last 5 Results
Premier League (20/08/2018): Crystal Palace 0-2 Liverpool
Premier League (31/03/2018): Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League (19/08/2017): Liverpool 1-0 Crystal Palace
Premier League (23/04/2017): Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace
Premier League (29/10/2016): Crystal Palace 2-4 Liverpool
Crystal Palace have often been dubbed Liverpool’s “bogey team”, during the London clubs first couple of seasons they did get the better of us more than they should of. Since Jurgen Klopp became manager, of the seven games between the two clubs Liverpool have won five – losing the other two, both at Anfield.
The London club have picked up the most points at Anfield since the German arrived, though this season Liverpool are a different beast and should be easily beating a club like Crystal Palace if we are to be serious about winning the title.
Sadio Mane and Mo Salah always excel against Crystal Palace, the Senegalese International has found the net twice against the eagles in five appearances. Salah has been involved in three goals in his three appearances, scoring once and assisting two.
The Egyptian can also break the record for the fastest player to reach 50 goals in the Premier League, he has 46 goals in 58 appearances. If he were to score four, he would break the record with seven games to spare.
Crystal Palace should have little to offer in attack, despite their heroics at the Etihad. Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho should nullify any of the attack they start with relative ease so it should be a relatively easy game for Jurgen Klopp and his team.
I’m going for a two goal win for Liverpool.
Predicted score: Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace (Mane x2)