05 March 2016

Liverpool at Crystal Palace 03.06.16

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
1-2 Palace (h) 11.08.15
1-3 Palace (h) 05.16.15
2-1 Liverpool (a; FA Cup) 02.14.15
1-3 Palace (a) 11.23.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-0 City (h); 1-1 City aet [1-3 pens] (n); 1-0 Augsburg (h)
Palace: 2-2 Sunderland (a); 2-3 West Brom (a); 1-0 Tottenham (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Firmino 7; Benteke 6; Coutinho, Milner 5; Lallana, Sturridge 3; Henderson, Ings, Lallana, Origi 2; Allen, Can, Clyne, Skrtel, Toure 1
Palace: Cabaye, Dann, Wickham 5; Bolasie 4; McArthur, Sako, Ward, Zaha 2; Adebayor, Delaney, CY Lee 1

Referee: Andre Marriner

Guess at a line-up:
Flanagan Toure Lovren Moreno
Henderson Can
Lallana Firmino Coutinho

It seems the best possible time for Liverpool to face Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace's League Record in 2016: 0W-2D-7L, 8F 21A. Sure, they've won all three FA Cup matches and are favorites to progress to the semi-finals, but they've been absolutely dire in the league. From fifth on New Year's Day, one point ahead of Liverpool, to 14th today, eight points behind Liverpool. And it should be more, except for Liverpool continuing to Liverpool.

But there is never a good time for Liverpool to face Crystal Palace. 3-3, 1-3, 1-3, 1-2. The death of the 2013-14 title challenge. Two embarrassments last season. Klopp's first Liverpool loss.

Form doesn't seem to matter for either side. This match-up has gone badly – except for one Sturridge-led FA Cup exception last season – for almost two full years now.

And Daniel Sturridge will undoubtedly be back for this. As will Philippe Coutinho.

There are a few other line-up questions besides those two coming into the side. Will Coutinho replace Lallana, who was the man of the match against City, or Milner, who wasn't far behind? Will Flanagan keep his place, either ahead of Moreno or in order to give Clyne a rare rest? Is Skrtel fit enough to replace Toure, another who impressed on Wednesday? Or does Liverpool surprise us: Origi and Sturridge up front, a diamond midfield with Coutinho at the apex, Lallana/Milner and Henderson on the sides, Can at the base?

Liverpool (finally) have options, Klopp has options. Which will be the best to finally beat Pardew and Palace?

Crystal Palace have switched between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 in the last few matches. I suspect they'll choose the former tomorrow, the usual tactic of sitting deep and counter-attacking and set plays and daring Liverpool to find a way past a packed defense. Because we're all well aware how well that's worked against Liverpool. McArthur and Puncheon will be absent, Wickham and Hennessey will be late decisions.

Assuming both Wickham and Hennessey are fit, the XI should be something like Hennessey; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly; Cabaye, Jedinak; Bolasie, Mutch, Zaha; Wickham. Adebayor could start up front, with or without Wickham, regardless of that player's fitness. Souare's back from his red card ban and could replace Kelly. Ledley and Lee Chung-Yong are options in midfield, most likely in place of Mutch.

All of these are players who've punished Liverpool in past meetings. I really hate matches against Crystal Palace.

So it's up to Liverpool to overturn recent history. I still maintain that fourth place is firmly gone, but Liverpool can't believe that. Liverpool are six points behind City and United, with a game-in-hand (v Everton) on the latter. It's closer than it should be, but it's not as close as it should be.

Build on the performance against City. The movement in attack, the fervent pressing work rate, the solidity in defense. Keep improving – necessary for both the short- and long-term – and see what happens.

Also, please beat Crystal Palace, for a change. Keep improving, and also exorcise those demons.

1 comment :

E Coutinho Can said...

We've really got to beat this bogey team of ours! This is a huge match.