22 November 2014

Liverpool at Crystal Palace 11.23.14

8:30am ET, live in the US on CNBC

Last four head-to-head:
3-3 (a) 05.05.14
3-1 Liverpool (h) 10.05.13
1-2 Palace (a; League Cup) 10.25.05
0-1 Palace (a) 04.23.05

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Chelsea (h); 0-1 Real (a); 0-1 Newcastle (a)
Palace: 0-1 United (a); 1-3 Sunderland (h); 2-2 West Brom (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Own Goal, Sterling 3; Gerrard 2; Can, Coutinho, Henderson, Lallana, Moreno, Sturridge 1
Palace: Campbell, Jedinak 3; Hangeland 2; Bolasie, Chamakh, Gayle, Puncheon, Zaha 1

Referee: Jon Moss

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Henderson Coutinho
Lallana Lambert Sterling

Evidently, time doesn't heal all wounds. Once again, Sturridge picks up another muscle strain during an international break, even when he's not away with England, and is out for another four-to-six weeks just when we thought he'd be coming back. Meanwhile, Liverpool remain in the midst of a three-match losing streak, unable to score goals while as weak at the back as they were last season.

So Brendan Rodgers will have to attempt to fix Liverpool's multiple failings with what he's already had.

To compound matters (maybe), Balotelli might miss out as well, suffering a groin problem while away with Italy. So while the diamond remains a possibility, whether it's Balotelli or Lambert paired with Borini or Sterling, I suspect we'll see similar to the lineup against Chelsea but with Lambert instead of Balotelli. Keep Sterling on the left. Play Lallana or Coutinho on the right, ideally the former, because the latter's capable of also playing the #8 role in midfield opposite Henderson.

Just please don't be Balotelli central, Sterling right, Lallana/Coutinho left. Again.

Henderson also had a slight hamstring issue while with England, but should be available. Which makes Henderson + Allen or Can ahead of Gerrard the likely midfield. But as said above, I'd like to see Coutinho there with both Sterling and Lallana ahead of him. If you're going to stockpile smaller attacking midfielders, you might as well try to use them. And if Henderson's unavailable, it'll be Can in his stead, partnered with either Allen or Coutinho.

With Sakho still injured – we're going on eight weeks for what was supposedly a two-to-three week injury – we're stuck with the same options in defense. Maybe Toure comes in for Lovren, as against Real Madrid, but I doubt it, given that Rodgers went right back to the misfiring Croatian against Chelsea despite Toure's performance against Madrid. And there's the usual Manquillo v Johnson debate, with everyone buy Rodgers seemingly on the side of Manquillo. I'm really not looking forward to Bolasie or Gayle running at Johnson on the counter (if Johnson's even back in position).

The faces may be similar, but this is not the same Crystal Palace that came back from three down against Liverpool, that won five of the final eight games and finished 11th under Tony Pulis last season. Liverpool are winless in their last three league games, but Palace are winless in their last five. Only QPR have conceded more goals through 11 matches.

Still, Liverpool haven't won at Crystal Palace since December 1997, drawing two and losing three in two Premier League and three FA and League Cup matches.

Palace's XI will most likely be Speroni; Kelly, Dann, Delaney, Wared; Jedinak, Ledley; Puncheon, Chamakh, Bolasie; Campbell. McArthur late fitness test. Zaha and Gayle other options out wide rather than Bolasie or Puncheon; McArthur in midfield rather than Ledley if he's fit after picking up a knock during the international break.

Campbell, Bolasie, and Zaha are threats on the counter, Hangeland, Jedinak, and Kelly (you may remember him) are threats from set plays. You know, Liverpool's usual areas of weakness. This may be away from Anfield, but chances are that Palace plays the cagier style, hoping to frustrate Liverpool's turtle-slow attack before going in the opposite direction at pace. And Neil Warnock loves playing Liverpool, still holding a grudge against Benitez for deploying a weakened side seven years ago, which contributed to Sheffield United's relegation.

They may not be as disciplined, as strong as Pulis' Palace, but they'll still be more than up for tomorrow's game. Will Liverpool?

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