07 November 2015

Liverpool v Crystal Palace 11.08.15

11am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports Live Extra

Last four head-to-head:
1-3 Palace (h) 05.16.15
2-1 Liverpool (a; FA Cup) 02.14.15
1-3 Palace (a) 11.23.14
3-3 (a) 05.05.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Kazan (a); 3-1 Chelsea (a); 1-0 Bournemouth (h)
Palace: 0-0 United (h); 1-5 City (a); 0-1 Leicester (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Benteke 4; Coutinho 3; Ings, Sturridge 2; Milner 1
Palace: Cabaye 4; Sako, Ward 2; Bolasie, Dann, Delaney, Zaha 1

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Guess at a line-up:
Mignolet
Clyne Skrtel Sakho Moreno
Milner Lucas Can
Lallana Coutinho
Benteke

Jürgen Klopp seemed unfazed by questions about fitness in today's press conference, unworried about exhaustion after a strong squad's trip to Kazan. So be it. He's better placed to judge than we are, and a bit cleverer about this football nonsense.

But Liverpool's midweek exertions against Bournemouth in the League Cup two weeks ago were evident in the subsequent match against Southampton. Even if Liverpool are better prepared to cope with multiple matches in a week now than then, under this manager than the last, you still have to expect some backlash. Liverpool pressed less against Southampton, Liverpool attacked slower against Southampton. Part of that, I'm sure, had to do with Southampton's quality. But part seemingly had to be due to a match three days earlier as well. And both of those matches, the midweek and the weekend, were at Anfield; there weren't two 4000km flights involved.

There will be a few fresh players: Coutinho didn't play in Russia, Lallana saw half an hour, Lucas saw 10 minutes, Skrtel just a couple of minutes. But both fullbacks played 90 (because there's no other option), Sakho played 90, Can played 90, Benteke played 90, Firmino played 80. That's a bit concerning.

My only question about the XI is about Milner: whether the struggling stand-in captain again starts. He's been one of the most disappointing players under Klopp, if not the most disappointing. There's a reasonable chance he's dropped, with Liverpool a more orthodox 4-2-3-1, with the third player in the attacking line of three either Firmino (central) or Ibe (on the right). I still suspect both will be left on the bench, used as game-changing substitutes, especially after what you'd assume were draining performances against Kazan, with Milner – in theory – also better able to provide protection against Palace counter-attacks, especially in the 4-3-2-1 formation.

Crystal Palace currently sit 10th, a point behind Liverpool. One month ago, Palace sat fourth, three points ahead of Liverpool; since returning from the last international break, they lost three before last week's 0-0 draw against Manchester United. That draw was Palace's first of the season. This is not a team that finishes 1-1 in most matches. This is a team that finishes 1-0 or 0-1, 3-1 or 1-3.

Gayle, Souare, and Wickham are questionable, the former two supposedly likely to be in the squad, while Lee Chung Yong, Chamakh, and Appiah are out.

If that's the case, Palace's XI will be Hennessey; Souare, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Cabaye, McArthur; Zaha, Puncheon, Bolasie; Gayle. Aside from Souare, the same XI which drew with United last week. If Gayle and Wickham are unavailable, it'll be Bakary Sako or Frazier Campbell or, less likely, Chelsea loanee Bamford up front. If Souare doesn't play, ex-Liverpool player Martin Kelly will start. Jordan Mutch, recently returned from injury, could come into midfield, probably in place of McArthur, or in the attacking line of three, but he's more likely to be used as a substitute as well.

Crystal Palace are Crystal Palace are Crystal Palace. I don't have to recount the horrors of the last two 1-3 losses, or May 2014's 3-3 draw. Like Liverpool's last two matches at Chelsea and Kazan, there will be a bit of deep-sitting defense. Unlike those two sides, Crystal Palace should carry a bit more threat on the counter and from set plays. Bolasie and Zaha, specifically the former, utterly tortured Liverpool last season; Dwight Gayle did similar in the two away matches in May and November 2014. Both Puncheon and Cabaye are outstanding from free kicks, while Dann, Delaney, and Hangeland are excellent headers of the ball.

Early goals haven't fazed Palace, at least in this fixture. Liverpool scored in the second minute at Selhurst Park and the 26th minute at Anfield. Palace equalized in less than 20 minutes both times, then scored two in the final half-hour as the game became stretched. Yes, yes, this is a different Liverpool, but it's harder to come out guns blazing, press, score, and shell against this opposition.

A three-match winning streak (six unbeaten under Klopp, 12 unbeaten under both Klopp and Rodgers) versus a four-match winless streak. The history between these two sides: Liverpool winless in the last three league meetings – two of the worst losses Liverpool suffered under Rodgers (1-6 Stoke obviously notwithstanding), and the final-nail-in-the-title-coffin draw.

But it's a new era. Liverpool are coming off its first European away win in three years, and its first win at Chelsea in four years. It's time to end the era of bad feelings, and to end the disappointing streaks built up over the last two seasons.

1 comment :

Jack John said...

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