13 February 2015

Liverpool at Crystal Palace 02.14.15

12:30pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports Plus or Fox Soccer 2Go (*shakes fist at Fox Sports' scheduling department*)

Last four head-to-head:
1-3 Palace (a) 09.23.14
3-3 (a) 05.05.14
3-1 Liverpool (h) 10.05.13
1-2 Palace (a; League Cup) 10.25.05

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-2 Spurs (h); 0-0 Everton (a); 2-1 Bolton (a)
Palace: 1-1 Newcastle (h); 1-0 Leicester (a); 0-1 Everton (h)

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 2-1 Bolton (a); 0-0 Bolton (h); 2-1 Wimbledon (a)
Palace: 3-2 Southampton (a); 4-0 Dover (a)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Gerrard 10; Sterling 9; Lallana 4; Balotelli, Coutinho, Henderson, Lambert, Markovic 3; Moreno, Sturridge 2; Borini, Can, Johnson, Lovren, Rossiter, Skrtel, Suso 1
Palace: Gayle 10; Jedinak 5; Campbell 4; Chamakh, Dann, Puncheon 3; Hangeland, Ledley 2; Bolasie, Doyle, Kaikai, McArthur, Sanogo, Zaha 1

Referee: Robert Madley

Madley has never been in charge of a Liverpool game before.

Guess at a line-up:
Lovren Skrtel Sakho
Markovic Can Henderson Enrique
Sturridge Balotelli

As always, the conflict is between Liverpool's need to rest players and Rodgers' desire to compete on all fronts.

Personally, I think this competition is the lowest on the food chain. The league will almost always be the most important, while the Europa League is a potential route into next season's Champions League (even if winning the competition remains an incredibly difficult proposition). But Rodgers rarely approaches any match that way. A couple of changes but a stronger-than-expected XI is almost always his modus operandi in cup competition.

That said, there has to be some rotation. Gerrard and Lucas are out injured, I suspect Sterling will miss out as well as he recovers from a foot injury, and Jordon Ibe's cup-tied. Rodgers is already limited in some of his choices.

One change that everyone seemingly agrees on is shifting Can in midfield, as we saw at the end of Saturday's match (and at Bolton in the previous round). Liverpool immediately looked more dynamic, with surprisingly little loss of solidity at the back with Lovren on the right of defense. I've no preference whether Can's partnered with Allen or Henderson, although I suspect it'll be the vice-captain, simply because he's vice-captain, even though he too could probably use the rest.

There's also the option of switching one or both of the wing backs. Not both, given how that spectacularly failed in the first match against Bolton. But either replacing Moreno with Enrique, or bringing Johnson or Manquillo on the right is a possibility. And using Johnson or Manquillo on the right would free up Markovic to again start in attack.

Other possibilities: give Coutinho the night off – he looked off the pace on Saturday, and I suspect the knock suffered at Everton had something to do with it – and start both Sturridge and Balotelli, a 3-4-1-2 rather than the usual 3-4-2-1. The match at White Hart Lane, while more than five and a half months ago, was a tantalizing glimpse of what Balotelli and Sturridge can do in a strike partnership. Sturridge is getting back to full fitness, able to play 70 minutes on Saturday; Balotelli is coming off a match where he scored a vital winner. And as with Can in midfield, this is a match where Liverpool can experiment without as many repercussions as in the Premiership or Europa League.

However, Crystal Palace is in even better form than they were when they took points off of Liverpool in the last two meetings: the soul-killing draw at the end of last season, the soul-killing loss in November. Since Alan Pardew became manager at the beginning of January, Palace have won five, drawn once, and lost once. In the 22 previous matches this season, they'd won just three. Just twice in the league. Including, of course, that thrashing of Liverpool.

Pardew's Palace is deployed the same way as Pardew's Newcastle: either 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 (usually the former), fairly resilient in defense, but more importantly fast and direct in attack. Palace's likely XI is probably that which drew with Newcastle on Saturday – Speroni; Kelly, Hangeland, Delaney, Ward; McArthur, Ledley; Puncheon, Chamakh, Zaha; Sanogo. However, Pardew should be tempted to start Dwight Gayle, with three goals in those last two matches against Liverpool, whether it's in place of Puncheon, Zaha, or Sanogo. Bolasie could also start in place of one of the wingers, returning from the African Cup of Nations to set up Palace's equalizer on Saturday. Mile Jedinak looks likely to miss out in midfield, returning from the Asian Cup with ankle issues, while Scott Dann and Jerome Thomas are also injured.

Tomorrow won't quite be a chance for revenge after the last two meetings – both vastly more important to Liverpool's fortunes than tomorrow will be – but it's still a chance for revenge, and a chance to mute those traumatic memories. The November loss at Palace was a turning point, this season's nadir, leading to a change in style and formation which led to the incremental improvement we've seen since. And there's no better way to reinforce that improvement than to curb stomp the team which prompted it.


Adam Bowen said...

I'm seeing it listed on Fox Sports 1?

Adam Bowen said...

Actually, maybe not, but it looks like Fox Sports Go might show it?

Anonymous said...

Curb stomping time it is. With that Can-Hendo marauding midfield.

Let's be sure not to fall prey to a reverse half nelson.

Anonymous said...

That ref is a walking yellow card.

69 yellows in 20 games.

My Gawd.

Tell Lovren no more late studs up tackles.

Anonymous said...

Ha. Look at Keith Strouds numbers. 27 games 123yellows...

Anonymous said...

for future reference it was also on FS deportes. I find the spanish sometimes is nice even though i don't speak it. Announcers today were pretty good on there. no gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooll announcements