Time for a Three Match Winning Streak?
As the Midweek Mayhem Ends, Match Week Sixteen Awaits for the Premier League and its jaded footballers. The dreaded (and much spoken about) 12:30 Kick-Off returns for the red men, as a trip to South London awaits on Saturday lunchtime. If Liverpool are to win this game, it would take them to the top of the Premier League by one point, as Arsenal travel to Villa Park for their own 17:30 Kick-Off. The Gunners are currently two points clear, with the same number of games played.
As Macca mentioned the frequency with which Liverpool play 12:30 games… here's the table from 2019/20 onwards. Includes this weekend against Palace. pic.twitter.com/QF7wcTGO66
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) December 6, 2023
Crystal Palace’s Team News
In terms of availability, Liverpool’s summer target, Cheick Doucoure, Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, Rob Holding, Dean Henderson, and Tyrick Mitchell, are all ruled out, whilst Eberechi Eze faces a late fitness test. Regarding recent form, the Eagles lost their own midweek contest, 0-2, after a trip to the south coast where they faced Bournemouth. An impressive 1-1 draw (away to West Ham) preceded that, after losing 2-1, away to Luton, following a home 2-3 defeat to Everton. The vastly experienced 76-year-old former Liverpool manager, Roy Hodgson, has seen his side fall into some very poor form of late, yet a 14th place position in the table is still good enough for a team that could have been relegated last season. Having accrued sixteen points from fifteen games played, the Londoners are eight points clear of the relegation places. Given the good early start to the campaign, they have little fear of a 2024 relegation battle, given the levels of those below them.
A predicted line-up for the away team is listed below.
GK – Sam Johnstone RB – Joel Ward RCB – Joachim Andersen LCB – Marc Guéhi LB – Nathaniel Clyne RCM – Jefferson Lerma CDM – Chris Richards LCM – Will Hughes RW – Michael Olise CF – Odsonne Édouard LW – Jordan Ayew
In a 4-3-3 system of play, the home side will look to stay compact and organized. The game plan will be to frustrate and counter a team that plays that famous high line, with set pieces also used to try and get something out of the game.
Liverpool’s Lineup and Strategy
The 2nd placed reds will be delighted with 31 points taken from their own fifteen games played, especially after this disastrous 2022/23 campaign. The most recent midweek win against Sheffield United came after a seven-goal thriller at Anfield, which eventually saw the reds win 4-3 (against Fulham), given a late comeback. The weekend prior represented the contest between the divisions two most elite teams, as Liverpool drew 1-1 at Manchester City.
In terms of those available, the Spanish pair of Thiago Alcântara and Stefan Bajčetić remain sidelined until late January, which is the timeline set out for Andy Robertson also. Alisson Becker is out until the visit of Manchester United on the 17th December, whilst Diogo Jota could be out until February. Joël Matip appears to have played his last game for the club, as an ACL injury has ended his fine season prematurely. The contract of the retired Cameroonian international is due to expire at the end of this season, therefore, a new one-year deal may be offered to aid in his recuperation. Alexis Mac Allister was on the end of a stamp on Wednesday evening, which required stitches on his knee. His availability is unlikely until the following weekend.
Below is the expected line-up, just three days after the reds beat Sheffield United 0-2, at Bramall Lane.
GK – Caoimhin Kelleher RB – Trent Alexander Arnold RCB – Ibrahima Konaté LCB – Virgil van Dijk © LB – Kostas Tsimikas RCM – Ryan Gravenberch CDM – Wataru Endō LCM – Curtis Jones RF – Mohamed Salah CF – Darwin Núñez LF – Dominik Szoboszlai
In a 4-3-3 (hybrid) system, the reds German manager will be tempted to shuffle his group once more, however, with Europa League qualification as Group E winners confirmed, next Thursday’s trip to Belgium (to face Royale Union Saint-Gilloise) means he may go full strength for Palace. I suspect Darwin Núñez, Kostas Tsimikas, and Curtis Jones will be recalled, whereas Ryan Gravenberch and Harvey Elliott will be hoping to get the nod.
Match Dynamics and Predictions
The reward for an away win for Liverpool is to end the game as clear league leaders, thereby putting immense pressure on Arsenal, who will travel to face a very good Aston Villa side. The confidence and ability of the reds should prove far too much for a Palace team in dire form. Michael Olise is a wonderful player and will offer good delivery when able, yet the loss of Cheick Doucoure has left the home side vulnerable and I fully expect them to be set upon by a rampant and determined visitor.
Key Player Spotlight
Player to Watch – Curtis Jones
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 7, 2023
Score Prediction: Crystal Palace 1 – 3 Liverpool