Crystal Palace vs Liverpool: 3 key battles as the Reds visit Hodgson’s Palace
Two teams fresh off opening day victories go head-to-head on Monday night. We take a look at which battles could decide the outcome.
Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
Liverpool visit Crystal Palace on Monday, hoping to continue a recent run of good form against the Eagles that has helped ease the bad memories of years gone by.
After the infamous ‘Crystanbul’ match in 2013-14, where Palace came from 3-0 down, effectively ending Liverpool’s title hopes, the South London side also spoiled the party at Steven Gerrard’s final Anfield game with a 3-1 win in 2014-15.
However, Jurgen Klopp’s side did the double over Palace last season and will hope to take another three points from them on Monday to further their title credentials.
Here’s where we think the key battles for the game lie:
Sadio Mane vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka
One of the highlights of Crystal Palace’s opening day win against Fulham was the performance of 20-year-old Aaron Wan-Bissaka. After he helped his side to a clean sheet whilst assisting Wilfried Zaha’s goal, many fans had him nominated as their Man of the Match.
Now a fully fledged first team player, the former winger will face one of the toughest challenges of his young career when he comes up against Sadio Mane, the Senegalese winger fresh off the back of two opening day goals against West Ham.
Wan-Bissaka was rated as good defensively for a winger during his time in Palace’s academy but still — like many young defenders — often relies on his pace to get him out of sticky situations at senior level.
KEY STAT: Sadio Mane has scored at least 10 Premier League goals in four consecutive seasons.
Whether that’ll be enough against Liverpool’s movement and blistering pace remains to be seen. If he can produce an impressive performance at the back it’ll help Palace hugely as Liverpool pose such a threat through Mane and Andy Robertson down the left.
Christian Benteke vs Roberto Firmino
Two strikers with contrasting styles, Christian Benteke effectively saw his Liverpool career ended by Roberto Firmino as Klopp found joy using the Brazilian as a false nine after taking charge in 2015-16.
Benteke has already had his revenge, scoring twice for Palace in a 2-1 win at Anfield in 2016-17 but Firmino beat him in goals scored (15 to 3), assists made (7 to 5) and even tackles won (1.8 per game to 0.4 per game) last season to justify Klopp’s choice.
Still, the Belgian has the licence to cause Liverpool problems, especially should Joe Gomez line-up at the heart of defence again.
Gomez often struggled with judging high balls into the area last season, notably letting Manuel Lanzini get ahead of him to score from a cross during the Reds’ 4-1 win against West Ham. If Benteke can benefit from that, you’d back him to put a chance away.
At the other end of the pitch, Firmino’s trickery and movement will be vital in pulling deep-sitting Palace defenders around the Selhurst pitch, creating gaps for the likes of Mane, Salah and Keita to burst in to.
Roy Hodgson vs The baying blood of the away end
From describing a 2-0 defeat to Everton as the ‘performance of the season’ to labelling his side as ‘in a relegation battle’, Roy Hodgson’s short-lived tenure at Liverpool isn’t one that has been forgotten by fans.
The Reds supporters will be desperate to get one over ‘the Hodge’ on Monday, with Palace’s 71-year-old gaffer equally keen to prove that his time at Anfield was an anomaly in his managerial career.
Whether his rivalry with Liverpool will trigger Hodgson into going for a more attacking style than he usually would against a top-six side remains to be seen.
KEY STAT: Hodgson won just seven of his 20 Premier League games in charge at Liverpool, leaving the club just four points off the relegation zone upon leaving in January 2011.
If the game stands at 0-0 with 15 minutes to go, you’d usually expect him to stick. Whether he’d look to twist against Liverpool out of mere desperation to get one over the Merseyside outfit is something only he’ll know.
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