Premier League 17/18: Crystal Palace vs Liverpool – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Premier League springs back into action with Klopp’s 100th league game as Liverpool boss in which he faces an Eagles side hungry for points
12:30 BST, Saturday 31st March, Selhurst Park (London, England) Sky Sports
There may not be much love at Anfield for former boss Roy Hodgson, however, the ex-England manager is very much appreciated back with his local club.
Having beaten the Reds in three of his last five Premier League meetings, he will be hoping to give the Liverpool fans yet another reason to jeer him as he aims to steer his new team clear of trouble at the Reds expense.
Having already exited the FA Cup, Liverpool were able to play a game in hand on their top-four rivals and open up a 7 point cushion between themselves and 5th-placed Chelsea.
With attention likely to turn soon to the upcoming clash with Manchester City in Wednesday’s Champions League clash.
Before that, Jurgen Klopp’s side will need to focus on a Crystal Palace side who have started to grow a habit of spoiling their party as they aim to complete the double over the South London club for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
Last Time Out
Huddersfield Town 0-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
The Eagles claimed an important victory over one of their relegation-race rivals to lift themselves out of the bottom three. Amidst a snow storm in West Yorkshire, Palace held firm to record their first win in 8 matches with a well-deserved win.
The centre-back pairing of Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins proved efficient and robust, not allowing the Terriers a shot on target until the 81st minute.
Tomkins continued his run of recent good form with more clearances (11) than any other player and capped a fine performance with the opening goal midway through the first half.
Luka Milivojevic added the second from the penalty spot with around 20 minutes remaining when Andros Townsend was up-ended in the Huddersfield penalty area.
While Palace lost both Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha to knocks during the closing stages, they remained largely untroubled and brought themselves to within a point of their opponents in the league table.
Liverpool 5-0 Watford (Premier League)
The visit of Watford turned into the Mohamed Salah show as the Egyptian ace bagged four goals in a one-sided affair at Anfield.
Two goals in each half saw off the challenge from the Hertfordshire side with his first strike arriving in only the 4th minute of the match. In between the two braces, Salah also made the assist for Roberto Firmino to flick the ball past Orestis Karnezis at the beginning of the second half.
It was not only a dominant attacking display from Salah, this game also showcased Liverpool’s high level of controlled aggression in relentlessly pressing their opponents. In giving Watford no time to breathe in the centre of the pitch, they controlled this match from start to finish.
The two fine solo goals by Salah in the quarter of an hour were the icing on the cake for both the player and the team as Klopp’s side sent out a strong message in returning to winning ways.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Hodgson will still be without Julian Speroni (knee), Scott Dann (knee), Bakary Sako (ankle), Jason Puncheon (knee) and Connor Wickham (fitness) the latter of which suffering a recurrence of the injury this week which he thought he’d just recovered from.
Wilfried Zaha is also expected to miss up to four weeks following a robust tackle against Huddersfield while there’s also doubts remaining over Joel Ward, Jeffrey Schlupp and Alexander Sørloth who are all nursing respective knocks.
Joe Gomez (ankle) has been ruled out of contention as the latest Liverpool player to suffer international duty woe, with Emre Can also doubtful after picking up a minor back strain with Germany.
Nathaniel Clyne (muscular) continues to sit out with Dejan Lovren likely to be rested with an ankle complaint.
Key Battle: Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) vs Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Roy Hodgson is not the only person taking on his former club for Palace this weekend. Benteke too had a less-than-memorable time in Liverpool but has since haunted the club with six goals from his eight league games against them.
While the big striker has not been as prolific this season as he would have hoped to have been, his performance levels have been good in recent matches. With effort comes reward and the home side will be hoping that Benteke profits from that on Saturday lunchtime.
Fresh from picking up the captain’s armband then scoring his first international goal, van Dijk is set to return to club action and lead from the back for Liverpool. Having settled in well to life at Anfield, the Reds have conceded only twice during the Dutchman’s last six starts.
While the strikers have been free-scoring of late, another shut-out this weekend will be something that Klopp will greatly appreciate and help prove that the league’s most expensive defender has been worthy of the colossal investment.
The Eagles forgotten saviour?
While many people point at Zaha as the one player who can lift the gloom shrouding Palace’s season, another player could be about to step back into the limelight.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has missed the previous three months due to an ankle injury picked up at the end of last year against Arsenal.
Having replaced Zaha for the final minutes of the win over Huddersfield, the English midfielder is now ready to make his return to the starting line-up for Hodgson’s side.
While he only scored once and made four assists in the 10 league games prior to his injury, Loftus-Cheek proved himself influential in the team’s good form at the time.
For a club who suffers so many injury problems when players are sent to represent England, there was a little karma for Liverpool this week when Adam Lallana was given a lengthy run-out against Italy.
Currently coming back to full fitness following injury, Lallana was not involved in their recent crushing of Watford but has played a combined total of 3 minutes from the four previous league fixtures.
At Wembley, the English midfielder made his first competitive start since the FA Cup win over Everton on 5th January, despite Gareth Southgate’s policy of preferring players who are currently playing and in form for their respective clubs.
With only seven league games and at least two more Champions League matches left in the season, Lallana will be hoping that this is enough to carry him forward and into a good seam of form for the summer.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool
The loss of Zaha will undoubtedly be a blow to Palace’s chances in this game, however, they have the defensive potential to frustrate their opponents in the coming weeks without their talismanic forward.
Liverpool are currently on a role and, despite many of their players playing international fixtures over the last week, they should have enough to see them keep some distance from Chelsea.