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Last four head-to-head:
3-1 Liverpool (h) 10.05.13
1-2 Palace (a; League Cup) 10.25.05
0-1 Palace (a) 04.23.05
3-2 Liverpool (h) 11.13.04
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-2 Chelsea (h); 3-2 Norwich (a); 3-2 City (h)
Palace: 0-2 City (h); 1-0 West Ham (a); 3-2 Everton (a)
Liverpool: Suarez 30; Sturridge 20; Gerrard 13; Sterling 9; Skrtel 7; Coutinho 5; Henderson 4; Agger, Flanagan, Moses, Sakho 1
Palace: Puncheon 7; Chamakh 5; Gayle 3; Jerome, Ledley 2; Bannan, Dann, Gabbidon, Ince, Jedinak, Mariappa, Murray, O'Keefe 1
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Sakho Flanagan
Bus Parkin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Last week went not so good. And Liverpool have struggled with defensive sides away from home at times this season, most notably at Hull and West Brom, but to a lesser extent at Newcastle and West Ham, among a handful of others. Palace will pose similar problems, with a manager who has defined the style, and they've been one of the league's tougher sides over the last six weeks.
Like last week, Liverpool's only line-up question is whether Sturridge is fit to start. If so, almost certainly the above diamond formation, with the striker taking Lucas' place in the starting XI. If not, then the same XI as the last two matches, although I don't know whether it'll be the 4-3-2-1 seen at Norwich or the 4-3-3 against Chelsea. Needing runners from deep to disrupt an entrenched defense, attackers attacking from multiple angles, makes me think that the 4-3-2-1 would be more likely if Sturridge is absent. The more open 4-3-3 didn't work against either Chelsea without Sturridge or at West Ham with Sturridge.
And Liverpool will have a massive incentive to score early and often. Yes, that's usually the case because that's usually how you win football matches. But, after last week's debacle and City's win at Everton yesterday, there's an excellent chance that the title will go down to goal difference. And City's is currently nine better than Liverpool's. That's a hell of a chasm to make up over two matches, but it's not entirely unprecedented.
Meanwhile, Palace will do what Pulis does. Ensure that a football match doesn't accidentally occur. The starting XI is almost certainly Speroni; Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie; Chamakh; Jerome. A 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 hybrid with two defensive midfielders, restrained fullbacks, and long balls toward Chamakh and Jerome. Puncheon and Bolasie have pace down the flanks, capable of troubling Liverpool's fullbacks, especially if Flanagan and Johnson are determined to get forward. Murray could start in place of Jerome, Ince in place of Puncheon or Bolasie, but Pulis has used a fairly settled side over the last few matches, helped by the fact that Palace have no injury concerns.
West Ham away a month ago, a narrow 2-1 win, is probably a better barometer than Chelsea's parked bus. Allardyce and Pulis have the same philosophy: maximizing efficiency, maximizing the few chances created, minimizing the amount of football played. Quick transitions up the flanks, crosses toward Jerome and Chamakh, creating havoc on set plays. West Ham dragged Liverpool down into the mud at Upton Park, but even though Liverpool needed two penalties to score two goals, West Ham wouldn't have even scored one if not for Carroll punching Mignolet in the face. Still, Liverpool's gonna need more from open play than they created against the Hammers.
All Liverpool can do is win its final two matches and hope for the best. Focus on themselves, and respond to last week's loss. It'll be a true measure of how far this team has come mentally, because last week was one hell of a demoralizing set back.
So, will it be déjà vu all over again, or did Liverpool learn something from last week?