c Liverpool are one of only two top six teams playing in the Premier League this weekend, therefore they have a huge opportunity to strengthen their position in the top six. Although they have played more matches than the rest of the top six, at this stage of the season points on the board are better than games in hand. They are currently six points ahead of Manchester United in 6th place and it is looking increasingly likely that they will be playing Champions League football next season. Their opponents on Sunday will be Crystal Palace, a team in good form, but they will be confident of taking the three points at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp has done an excellent job at Liverpool this season. He has arguably the worst squad available to him in the top six, but he is taking them in the right direction and he could be the man to return the good times to the club. Their run-in looks relatively simple, but the Reds have struggled more in matches against bottom-half teams than their rivals in the top six. They will be aware of Palace’s recent resurgence under Sam Allardyce and it is a match that Klopp won’t be taking for granted.
The Eagles are now seven points above the relegation zone after a great run of form that has seen them take 16 points from a possible 21 across their last seven matches. Relegation fears have eased, but Allardyce will still be looking for a couple more wins to confirm their Premier League status. During recent weeks, they have managed to beat both Chelsea and Arsenal, which will give them confidence ahead of their trip to Anfield. They have nothing to lose and that has been when Palace have been at their most dangerous under Allardyce.
This has been a fixture that Liverpool have struggled in during recent seasons. Palace have won three of the last five Premier League matches, but the Reds have managed to win the last two. At Selhurst Park earlier this campaign, Liverpool ran out 4-2 winners with goals from Emre Can, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino. James McArthur bagged a brace for the hosts.
Liverpool have scored more goals than any other Premier League team this season with 69. They will be confident of adding to that total this weekend.
Crystal Palace have kept four clean sheets during their last seven matches. Their defence has improved massively under Allardyce and they will pose a difficult test for Liverpool on Sunday.
The Brazilian has been the leader of the attack this season and has developed an excellent relationship with both Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane. Although the latter is missing, Liverpool continue to pose a huge threat in attack and a major reason for that being the recent form of Firmino. The 25-year-old has contributed two goals and two assists during his last four matches. He has scored the winner in each of the last two matches and will be looking to have a similar impact this weekend. His best position still isn’t known, as he can be a very good option as a false nine, but he has thrived on the right wing since the injury to Mane. It was expected that the injury to the Senegalese international could potentially put an end to the Reds’ Champions League hopes. However, Firmino has used it as an opportunity to show his worth on the right and it will be interesting to see where his long-term future is under Jurgen Klopp. Crystal Palace are a very good side defensively and Liverpool will need Firmino’s intelligent movement in the final third to create chances.
The narrative in football is becoming increasingly important and the events on the pitch are becoming more and more predictable. After being let go by Jurgen Klopp last summer, Christian Benteke will be keen to show his former employers what they have been missing. The Belgian never suited the style of play that has been implemented under Klopp at Anfield. However, that won’t matter to him and he will be eager to spoil the party on Sunday. It has been a decent first season for him at Palace, but he will expect to push on to greater things over the next 12 months. He has scored 12 goals to date and he will be hoping to score a few more before the end of the season. Palace play a style that suits him and his physicality could cause problems for the Liverpool defence. This weekend, Sam Allardyce will want his team to be solid at the back and try to make the most of the set piece opportunities that are afforded to them. If they are to score at Anfield, it will probably come through Benteke and the striker is coming into the game with a string of good performance behind him.
Joel Matip and Lucas Leiva are facing late fitness tests to prove they are able to play a part this weekend. Ragnar Klavan and Adam Lallana remain a week away from returning to action. Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane remain on the treatment table.
Loic Remy and James Tomkins could be in line for a return to the first team squad. Meanwhile, Scott Dann and Connor Wickham won’t be available for the visitors.
Liverpool have a lengthy injury list and it is crucial that Joel Matip is fit to start this weekend. He is the club’s best defender and they look a worse side without him. Although Palace have been in good form recently, a home victory is the most likely result. They have found a way to grind out results in recent weeks and that was the only thing that prevented them from challenging at the top of the league during the first half of the season. It will be a tricky match, but the Reds should take the three points to consolidate their position in the top four.