After a rather enjoyable league renaissance, Liverpool’s brief resurrection reverted to form in midweek, with an astonishing 2-5 loss unfolding at home to Real Madrid. The result and manner in which the reds capitulated was a horrible watch, leaving them (realistically) only one path into Europe next season. This Saturday evening sees Jürgen Klopp take his disenchanted men to Selhurst Park, in a mid-table battle with Crystal Palace.
In terms of availability, Patrick Vieira comes into this game with Sam Johnstone, Wilfried Zaha, and Nathan Ferguson ruled out. There will be late fitness tests on Joel Ward, James Tomkins and Tyrick Mitchell. The Eagles are without a win in eight games, with that last victory coming on December 31st, against Bournemouth. With a loss in the FA Cup (within that eight-game run), the home side have actually only lost three of that league run, with the remaining games garnering them four points so far this year. With just six points separating them from the relegation spots, the former Nice manager needs to find some wins in order to close in on safety. With the reds perhaps a vulnerable target this weekend, he could see this matchup as an occasion to let his team loose.
The starting line-up will see Vicente Guaita starting between the sticks, whilst Jaïro Riedewald could come in if Mitchell is ruled out. Marc Guéhi and Joachim Andersen will resume their central defensive duties with Nathanial Clyne set to face off against his former employers, with another start at right back. In midfield, there could be one or two changes, with potentially Jeffrey Schlupp being the man to drop into left back. That would open up a spot for either Eberechi Eze or Will Hughes, to bulk up the midfield. The other two midfielders will be Cheick Doucouré and Albert Sambi Lokonga. The front three will then see the talented Michael Olise, journeyman Jordan Ayew, and Jean-Philippe Mateta, fighting to keep their places ahead of Odsonne Édouard. Palace currently sit 12th in the Premier League, with 26 points taken from 23 games played.
Liverpool come into their next Premier League game on the back of a Merseyside derby win, followed by a crucial win against Newcastle. Though the form of the reds wasn’t of the highest order at St. James Park, there were some signs of cohesion within the ranks, that they hope will be enough to overrun a fragile Palace. Neither team is brimming with either form or confidence right now, therefore it should make for an interesting contest. The reds currently sit 8th in the Premier League, with 35 points taken from their own 22 games played.
On the injury front, Jürgen Klopp is still without Luis Diaz, Arthur Melo, Calvin Ramsay, and Thiago Alcantara. Joe Gomez is now a doubt for this game, which could open the door for Joël Matip or perhaps a returning Ibrahima Konaté.
Alisson Becker will start in goal, with Virgil also a certain starter. Joe Gomez is likely to drop out through either injury or form, due to the events of Tuesday evening. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold should be the starting fullbacks, though both will need to improve dramatically on their midweek showing. The midfield should see a shake-up of sorts, with Naby Keïta and Curtis Jones waiting in the wings. Up front will probably see Mohamed Salah, Darwin, and Cody Gakpo starting again, as Bobby and Diogo Jota continue their slow builds from injuries.
This game could go either way, yet you feel that a positive response will more likely come from the away team. The home side are struggling in front of goal, whilst Liverpool is looking like a side that needs to outgun their opponents, if they are to have a chance at top four. I see a cagey start result in a narrow victory, with the Anfield side having too much firepower not to win.
Player to watch – Naby Keïta
Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Liverpool