With the final international break of 2014 over, club football is now the full focus for 4 months. That may sound better than the reality though for two set of fans facing each other this weekend – Crystal Palace v Liverpool.
After the success of last season, Crystal Palace looked upon this campaign in excitement. Unfortunately, Tony Pulis’ departure just days before the opening match has seen expectations lower to just surviving in the league. Outside of the relegation area on goal difference, Palace have failed to win a match since the end of September when they defeated Leicester 2-0 at home – 6 matches ago. The following 5 games have only seen 1 point obtained by Neil Warnock’s team and that run of form will need to change if they are to welcome in the new year out of the relegation area.
Those associated with Liverpool were hoping that the international break would have done the everyone some good – both those on with their national teams and those staying in Liverpool – but this season just isn’t working out for Liverpool. The news broke on Wednesday that Daniel Sturridge had suffered another thigh injury, ruling him out for another 6 weeks just days after returning to training. It is nothing but a massive blow for Liverpool who have missed Sturridge this season, however, the Merseyside team have a favourable run of fixtures ahead of them (Crystal Palace, Ludogorets Razgrad, Stoke, Leicester) to turn their form around.
The versatile defender was one of Crystal palace’s break-through players last season and Ward has turned into a consistent performer in the Premier League.
Playing mostly at left-back this season, he will be tasked with dealing with Raheem Sterling and the former Portsmouth player is capable of doing so. Being physically strong, this can be seen with the success rate of tackles made (71% – 25 tackles out of 35), while Ward has an impressive success rate for headed duels for a full-back (67% – 26 out of 39). Ward, despite being strong at defending unlike most modern full-backs, is also capable of going forward – creating 10 chances this season – which he showed against Chelsea last season to force the own goal that helped Palace win the match.
The electric winger has been one of the few bright sparks for Liverpool this season as he continues to establish himself as one of the most exciting young talents in Europe. The expectation on Sterling’s young shoulders is massive.
Sterling has created 26 chances so far this season, with 18 created in his last 6 matches, but only has 3 assists to his name as Liverpool continue to find converting their chances difficult. The English winger needs chip in with some goals of his own though as he endures a drab spell after scoring 3 – his total for the campaign – in his first 5 matches of the season.
- Last season Selhurst Park was a fortress for Crystal Palace, however the results have not been as favourable at the start of this campaign with only 1 victory in 5 matches.
- The fixture between the pair last season all but confirmed Liverpool’s title chances over after they threw away a 3-0 lead with only 11 minutes remaining to draw 3-3.
- Both teams have struggled in attack and share a record of failing to score in 3 league matches this season.
- Blistering starts to matches were a major part of Liverpool’s game this season; the defeat against Chelsea before the international break was their first after scoring first, while the Merseyside club have lost every match they’ve conceded first.
The frustration has become apparent in Balotelli’s performances of late as he struggles to find the back of the net. During his periods of poor form at Manchester City, Balotelli regularly lost his head and made foolish challenges. If the Italian has another afternoon of struggles against Crystal Palace, the chances of him getting booked are high. With TailorBet, you can get Balotelli to be booked at 3.78 – excellent value.
Crystal Palace have only one absentee for this weekend with James McArthur still recovering from a calf injury.
Daniel Sturridge is ruled out for another six weeks; while Jordan Henderson, Mario Balotelli, and Mamadou Sakho are doubtful and will have a late fitness test before Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers has changed his team fairly regularly this season and the volume of change each week seems to be hampering their performances. The quality between each squads make Liverpool clear winners, but if Crystal Palace can reach the level of work rate and intensity last season at Selhurst Park then it could be another tricky afternoon for Liverpool.