Two sides that were victorious in their first-round matches will go head-to-head this Monday night. Liverpool will travel to Selhurst Park to take on Roy Hodgson’s resurgent Crystal Palace. It is a trip that the Reds have been successful on in the last three instances. However, it is also a fixture that reminds Liverpool fans of what the end to the 2013-14 season could have been.
Crystal Palace have begun this season in a far better fashion than the last season. They have already garnered the same number of points (3) they accumulated in the first eight games last season. That is because they began last season with seven consecutive losses and did not gather a point before beating Chelsea in October. This Eagles team under Roy Hodgson is a completely different proposition. They are unbeaten in seven league matches, including the 2-0 victory against Fulham last week. Roy Hodgson can field his first choice central defence pairing of James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho, and when those two have started in the past, Palace have not lost a single game in 13 games. While the recent record against Liverpool might indicate a tall task for the Eagles on Monday, they will for sure cause Jurgen Klopp’s side some problems.
In their own way, Liverpool have also begun their season in a slightly better fashion than last season. Last season, they started with a draw at Watford before beating Crystal Palace at home in the second game week. This season, they started with an emphatic win against West Ham last week and will hope to keep the momentum going by winning at Selhurst Park. Jurgen Klopp let Ragnar Klavan sign for Cagliari on Friday indicating the confidence he has in his central defence options, which were boosted by the news of a potential return from injury for Joel Matip. But for Liverpool to return with all three points on Monday night, Klopp will bank on his rampant attackers more than his defence. The trio of Salah, Firmino and Mane who scored 91 goals between them last season have already started well, scoring three among them last week. Liverpool do look equipped to overcome the challenge that their ex-manager is likely to throw at them.
- The Eagles have lost last three league matches against Liverpool at Selhurst Park – their longest losing home run against the Reds in league competition. In fact, after a run of three defeats in a row against the Eagles, Liverpool have won four of their last five Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace.
- Crystal Palace, who have won their last three Premier League games at Selhurst Park, are looking to secure four home top-flight wins in a row for the first time since December 1990 – the fourth game in this run also came against Liverpool.
- Liverpool’s last away win was their victory at Selhurst Park way back in March. Since then they have lost one and drawn three in the league. But, all those draws and victories were played when the Reds had other priorities in Europe.
- This will be Liverpool’s 73rd Premier League game played on a Monday, more than any other side in the competition (W33 D20 L19). The last Monday Night Football game between these two sides was a game to forget for the Reds – the fixture when the league title really slipped out of Liverpool’s hands in 2013-14.
- Wilfried Zaha needs one more goal to become the Eagles’ all-time highest Premier League goal scorer (currently 23, level with Chris Armstrong). Wilfried Zaha needs one more goal to become the Eagles’ all-time highest Premier League goal scorer (currently 23, level with Chris Armstrong).
Even though the line is led by Christian Benteke, Zaha is the main creator of goals for Crystal Palace. He scored 9 and assisted 3 goals in 2551 minutes spread across 29 appearances in 2017-18. In terms of xG and xA per 90 minutes, his numbers (0.34 and 0.19 respectively) suggest that he would have scored or assisted a goal in every second game last season. He has started the season well and will hope to become Palace’s leading scorer in Premier League on Monday.
Sadio Mane has scored five goals against Crystal Palace, more than he has scored against any other side in the league. He has also begun the league campaign with a brace at Anfield last week. Mane scored 10 and assisted 7 goals in 2230 minutes last season and his xG and xA per 90 minutes (0.46 and 0.21) mean that he would have scored or assisted in two out of every three games last season. The worrisome part for opponents is that Mane is one of the many threats in Liverpool’s attack and hence they cannot focus too hard on any one of them.
Roy Hodgson has no fitness concern as even the summer signing Max Meyer might be available to make an appearance after sitting out the Fulham game. The former Liverpool and England manager is however not expected to make any changes to the side that started last week against Fulham.
Liverpool are boosted by the return of Fabinho and Joel Matip from their respective injuries. However, Jurgen Klopp too is likely to persist with the starting lineup that started at Anfield last week.
The painful memories of the 2013-14 trip to Selhurst Park have faded a bit due to the recent successes Liverpool have had at SE25. Despite the challenge posed by Crystal Palace, Jurgen Klopp will hope to return with a full haul of 3 points.
Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Liverpool