Selhurst Park is not the ideal venue that Liverpool supporters want their side to visit when the team has just climbed to the top of the table. Many a title dreams have come crashing down for the Reds at that fateful venue. But that is exactly where Jurgen Klopp will lead his men on Saturday to try and turn their away form around and to build on the three-point lead they have established at the top of the table.
Crystal Palace are full of individuals who will be looking forward to a meeting with their former club, none more so than the manager Roy Hodgson. Having won only thrice (in 15 games) against his former side, one of which was before he took charge at Anfield, he will want to improve his record against the Reds. Nathaniel Clyne would also like to impress his former club and boss, while Christian Benteke will not be able to do so as he was sent-off against West Ham on Wednesday. The Eagles come into this game unbeaten in their last three, albeit the last two have ended as 1-1 draws. However, the fact that they drew against Mourinho’s title chasing Spurs last Sunday, will give them some confidence against Liverpool. Palace sit 10 points and 11 places behind the table topping Liverpool at 18 points from 13 games. They have scored 19 goals, while conceding 18. They come into this game as a perfect mid-table team that can upset an applecart or two.
The reigning Champions come into this fixture as the team at the top of the table. But, one look at the away table tells us that this side is quite far from the dominant sides of 2018-19 and 2019-20. The Reds sit 16th with just 1 away win (1 loss and 4 draws), with a goal-difference of -3. While their dominance at Anfield continues unchecked, despite Spurs’ valiant attempt on Wednesday, Jurgen Klopp needs his side to return to winning ways away from home. They were unable to take all three points from Fulham last Sunday, which is why they are only three points ahead of Spurs. The team has been plagued with injuries to first-team players, which has led to an inevitable drop in their level, but their position in the table is credit to Klopp’s and his bench’s perseverance. He will hope that his side shows more of this perseverance and start winning away from home.
- The Reds are a tough opponent for most teams and Palace are not an exception. Since their return to the Premier League in 2013, the Eagles have not kept a clean sheet in any of their 14 league games against Liverpool (W4 D1 L9). They have also lost the last six games against the Reds.
- In 2014, Crystal Palace broke Liverpool hearts by drawing their home game against the Reds. Since then Liverpool have won each of their last five Premier League games at Selhurst Park. They have won more consecutive away games only against Norwich (7, ongoing) and Aston Villa (6, run ended by the 7-2 defeat earlier this season).
- London suits the Reds as well. They have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League away games in London (W8 D4) – to Arsenal last season. They have also lost just four games out of 27 in the capital under Jurgen Klopp.
- Crystal Palace are struggling to keep clean sheets. They have kept just one clean sheet in their last 21 Premier League matches. Their current 12-game run without a clean sheet is their worst since a 14-game run between May and November 2017.
- Likewise, Liverpool are struggling to get away wins. The Reds are winless in their last five away league games (D4 L1), drawing each of their last four in a row. They last went six matches without an away win in January 2011.
Zaha has contributed five goals (scored 2, assisted 3) in 11 Premier League appearances against Liverpool – all while playing for Crystal Palace. He did score a 90th minute consolation goal in the same fixture last season. He is the main attacking outlet for the Eagles, especially in the absence of Christian Benteke. xG90 of 0.50 and xA90 of 0.20, mean that he has a very good (70%) chance of contributing a goal if he plays the full 90 minutes. He has already contributed to 9 goals out of Palace’s 19 total so far. Roy Hodgson will be hoping that his talisman of a forward will keep that form up on Saturday.
Sadio Mane loves scoring against Palace. He has scored in each of his last six Premier League appearances against them. His xG90 of 0.49 and xA90 of 0.14 indicate a very credible goal threat. However, he has been goal-less ever since the Mersey-side derby in mid-October. His last assist too was in the immediately next game – against Sheffield United. Jurgen Klopp will hope that his star forward can start scoring and providing goals with the regularity that he and Liverpool fans have come to expect out of Mane. An outing against his favourite opponents should help in this regard.
With Christian Benteke out after being sent off mid-week, Jordan Ayew is likely to start up front alongside Zaha. Nathaniel Clyne was not selected against West Ham but he will hope to face his former side on Saturday. Jeffrey Schlupp, Gary Cahill and Jairo Riedewald could all be in contention to start on Saturday. The likely lineup for the Eagles is likely to be Guaita; Clyne, Kouyate, Cahill, Aanholt; Schlupp, Riedewald, McArthur, Eze; Zaha, Ayew.
For Liverpool, although both Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams did a great job against Spurs on Wednesday, both might drop to the bench against Palace. Jones needs a bit of rest and Klopp might favor Matip over Williams if he is available. Jurgen Klopp’s hands are tied due to the numerous injuries Liverpool have suffered. The likely lineup for Liverpool is – Alisson; Trent, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Keita, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Salah, Firmino.
Liverpool are due for an away win and they have some renewed confidence, reflected in the swagger displayed by Firmino and company against Spurs. Their confidence might be enough to fetch them all three points at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Liverpool