19 August 2018

Liverpool at Crystal Palace 08.20.18

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a) 03.31.18
1-0 Liverpool (h) 08.19.17
1-2 Palace (h) 04.23.17
4-2 Liverpool (h) 10.29.16

Last match:
Liverpool: 4-0 West Ham (h)
Palace: 2-0 Fulham (a)

Referee: Michael Oliver (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Alisson
Trent A-A Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Milner Henderson Keïta
Salah Firmino Mané

This will be a far tougher test than last week.

Liverpool had to work for both narrow victories last season – a 1-0 slog and 2-1 comeback. In earlier seasons, Palace punished Liverpool at least once a season.

Palace have players who've punished Liverpool in the past, Palace have players capable of punishing Liverpool now. I doubt Christian Benteke goes through last season's horror finishing again in this. Hennessey has stood on his head in previous meetings, making multiple saves he'd no right to make. And Wilfred Zaha and Schlupp down Liverpool's left will ask far more of Alexander-Arnold and Gomez than West Ham did, especially Zaha, who remains one of the best players in the league outside the top six.

Palace were far better than their league place last season suggests, and they finished 11th, firmly mid-table without the threat of relegation for the final few months. If not for a ghastly, unlucky first few months which saw Frank de Boer fired, they'd have finished a few places higher.

Palace are the type of side that's troubled Liverpool in the past – capable of defending deep and solid then counter-attacking at pace, both up the wings and long to Benteke. Set plays toward Benteke and the central defenders, free kicks from Milivojevic. It's a very Roy Hodgson side. And Roy Hodgson loves doing things to Liverpool, whether as opposition manager or Liverpool manager.

Both sides should line up as they did last week. Matip's back in training, but Gomez seems likely to keep his place. There's a reasonable chance that Henderson comes in for either Milner or Wijnaldum, but I'm not sure which. It's still too soon for Fabinho. Otherwise, this Liverpool side's already basically formed and – aside from the center-backs – fully fit.

As is Crystal Palace. Maybe summer-signing Kouyate comes in for McArthur, but otherwise, they are what they are. 4-4-2. The XI which beat upstart Fulham a week ago should be the XI tomorrow. Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; Townsend, Milivojevic, McArthur, Schlupp; Benteke, Zaha.

Zaha and Benteke as the focal points. Diligent destroyers in midfield, even if that underrates Milivojevic. Surprisingly competent at the back – because that's what Hodgson does – especially with Wan-Bissaka's improvement; like Alexander-Arnold, a young academy graduate full-back whose play belies his years. The other summer additions aren't likely to start: it's too soon for Max Meyer, Hennessey's performance should see him stay ahead of Vincente Guaita, and Jordan Ayew's more for attacking depth than the first XI.

There are ways for Palace to win this, or at least snatch a draw. This might well be Liverpool's toughest fixture outside the top six and Everton.

But if the last season's proven anything, it's that we shouldn't worry about the opposition. We should worry about what Liverpool do to that opposition. And it's usually a lot. Liverpool are still Liverpool. Liverpool still have that defense, midfield, and – most importantly – that front three. No matter that it's the second match of the season, and a surprisingly difficult one. If Liverpool play to their potential, Liverpool can beat almost anyone.

Both sides have scored in every meeting at Selhurst Park since Palace came back into the Premier League in 2013-14. Six matches since, finishing 3-3, 1-3, 2-1, 2-1, 4-2, and 2-1. There are goals in this fixture, for each team.

I like matches with goals. Because Liverpool are usually better than the opposition at getting goals.

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