For all Liverpool supporters around the world this game means just one thing: it’s almost certainly the last time they’ll see Steven Gerrard playing at Anfield. The Reds’ captain has led Liverpool with distinction for over ten years and the quality of his performances have always been a source of inspiration for those around him but now is the right moment to drop the curtain on one of Merseyside’s most amazing sporting stories. Gerrard has admitted to the emotional ache he’ll experience this weekend whilst also stating he’s determined to sign off with a win in front of his adoring faithful.
A win could keep Liverpool’s slim top four hopes alive but that dream is almost certainly dead and buried after an appalling run of form between the Manchester United and Hull City fixtures. Crystal Palace meanwhile, a team that represent much pain to Gerrard, are sitting pretty in 12th spot having secured their safety a few weeks ago. The Eagles sit on 42 points after an impressive run of form under the stewardship of manager Alan Pardew whose stock has surely risen further given the nature of Newcastle Uniteds current position.
Liverpool have just the three injuries heading into this one. Jon Flanagan is out until next season after his second knee operation. Centre-back Mamadou Sakho could feature on the bench with his hamstring strain nearing full health. Daniel Sturridge is the other man to miss out after hip surgery ruled him out until September.
Palace have just the one injury with Jerome Thomas out with an ankle knock.
- Liverpool have lost only one of their previous 14 home league games against Crystal Palace – winning 11 (D2).
- Crystal Palace have scored in each of their last six Premier League games against the Reds – including exactly three goals in their last two matches.
- In fact, Palace have scored more goals in their last six league games (11 goals) against Liverpool than in the previous 19 (10 goals).
- 51 of Gerrard’s 92 Premier League assists have arrived at home. Only three players (Ryan Giggs 84, Dennis Bergkamp 66 and Frank Lampard 52) have provided more assists at home for a single club than the Liverpool captain.
- However, Gerrard has recorded just one assist in this campaign, his lowest total since his debut season in the Premier League in 1998/99 (0 in 12 games).
- Simon Mignolet and Jordan Henderson could make their 53rd appearance of the campaign in all competitions, more than any other Premier League player has managed.
- The Eagles have lost their last four matches. Palace have not suffered five consecutive defeats since November 2013 (a run of seven).
- Jordan Henderson has managed his best tally of goals in a single season (6) and also the best tally of assists (9).
All stats supplied by StatsZone.
You might think this choice is sentimental but there’s grounds to be made that his inclusion as key man is merited. Gerrard might have endured a less than stellar season but he’s still, somehow, Liverpool’s top goalscorer once again and he’s scored both of the Reds’ last two goals – the headed winner vs QPR and another header against Chelsea.
So far this season, Gerrard has scored eight league goals with two in his last two games. The former England captain has created 49 chances for his teammates this year alongside a passing accuracy of 85%. Gerrard’s eye for the target has never waned and his 51% shooting accuracy is still impressive at the ripe old age of 34.
Jason Puncheon has so often been the man to lift Palace during the last two season. His ability to score goals and create chances has been vastly important for the Eagles and it will again be needed here during this difficult match-up. This is especially true considering that Puncheon has had a hand in more Premier League goals than any other Crystal Palace player this season (five goals, seven assists).
Puncheon came off the bench to score Palace’s equaliser against Manchester United last weekend and his performance was bright and lively as Palace searched for a positive result. So far this season, Puncheon has averaged an assist every four games which is a decent return. This is in line with his generally good chance creation with the wide-man creating 2.14 chances per 90 minutes played (p90). The London born winger has also managed 1.9 key passes p90 – another way to prove his solid creativity. He’s also been quite accurate with the ball at his feet with a 77% pass completion rate – a good percentage considering he’s played in a relegation threatened team in the final third of the field.
My prediction for this one is split down the middle – but also not at the same time. I’m sure Liverpool will win the game and I’m going for 2-1 but I’m split down the middle regarding Gerrard’s involvement. He insists he’s playing for the three points but he must be itching to score in his last Anfield game. I’ll go 2-1 with Gerrard to score at some point – narrative and all that.