20:00 BST, Monday 20th August, Selhurst Park (London, England) Sky Sports
Liverpool flew out of the blocks last weekend with a blistering performance against the Hammers but Crystal Palace also showed great promise during their victory against Fulham.
Roy Hodgson’s side have built up a quiet expectancy for this season and are now looking to record a fourth consecutive home league win. With Wilfried Zaha only requiring one more strike to be the club’s outright top scorer, the mood in the club will be high for a team widely tipped as dark horses this season.
There is little secret about Liverpool’s target for this season having invested heavily on new recruits this summer. Jurgen Klopp’s side are being heavily tipped for success this season and after winning in each of their last four visits to Selhurst Park, they will be strong favourites going into this match too.
Last Time Out
Fulham 0-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
A goal in each half sealed victory for the Eagles in the Premier League’s first London derby of the season.
Fulham showed plenty of quality and adventure but it was the established top-flight side who had the most composure. With only 34% possession from the game, Palace were effective if not dominant in their display.
Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha scored the decisive goals for Palace but Wayne Hennessey was equally important after he surprisingly beat Vicente Guaita into the first team.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was also a notable performer for the team both in attack and defence. A key pass and two of his three attempted dribbles proving successful showed that Hodgson has a real star in the making on his hands.
Liverpool 4-0 West Ham United (Premier League)
The Reds eased into the new season with all-guns blazing as they disposed of the Hammers with an inspired display.
Mohamed Salah started this season in familiar style as he opened the scoring in the 19th minute.
It was Sadio Mane on the opposite wing who stole the show, however, scoring either side of the interval to strengthen his side’s command on proceedings. While his second strike should have been ruled out for offside, Mane looked dangerous every time he was on the ball and never stopped running as he tried to make things happen.
This energy was shown across Liverpool’s frontline and helped them expose the high defensive line and hesitancy which undermined West Ham’s display. With Daniel Sturridge adding the gloss within a few seconds of his introduction to the game, Klopp could not have asked for more than his players delivered.
Crystal Palace Lineup
Scott Dann (knee) is the only major concern for Hodgson although both Max Meyer and Connor Wickham are still gaining their fitness levels and may struggle to make the Palace bench on Monday night.
While the likes of Vicente Guaita, Cheikhou Kouyate and Alexander Sorloth will all be pushing for a start in this game, the Eagles could name an unchanged side from last weekend after impressing against Fulham.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) is joined on the sidelines by the defensive duo of Dejan Lovren (pelvis) and Joel Matip (muscular) while Ragnar Klavan has now left the club which should see Joe Gomez continue in his preferred position of central defence alongside Virgil van Dijk.
Further up the pitch, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho, Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana will all be pushing for a start although only Jordan Henderson could find himself breaking into the side who began last Sunday.
Key Battle: Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) vs Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
Much of the Eagles gameplan will revolve around maintaining their shape and discipline to restrict Liverpool chances but this will mean little if they can’t score themselves.
Benteke returns to face his old club with better memories of playing against them than for them. His seven goals and an assist from ten appearances is the kind of form he will want to replicate in this encounter.
Having dominated in the air against Fulham, winning eight of his ten aerial challenges, Benteke brings more to the team than just goals but he does needs to become much more prolific this season.
Looking to stifle the striker is a player who many are expecting great things from. Gomez may only be in the team due to injuries elsewhere in the squad but he grabbed his chance with both hands last week.
Four clearances and success in all three of his attempted tackles saw him do everything asked of him in front of the West Ham attack and he will be looking for a repeat performance this week to stake a permanent place in the team.
Four shrewd signings during the summer have been bolstered further still by two more recent contract signatures for Crystal Palace. After Roy Hodgson inked a two-year extension just before his team played Fulham, Zaha followed his manager’s lead this week by committing himself to a new five-year deal.
Both player and manager grew up in the local area and their respective captures are sure to strengthen the club over the coming years.
These deals send a strong positive message throughout the dressing room and along with the new arrivals in the squad, will provide great belief that the club can improve upon their previous season.
Few players have managed to win their way back into Klopp’s plans once they’ve been cast adrift but this is exactly the challenge now posed for Sturridge. A goal within five seconds of leaving the bench last weekend has the striker off the mark this season but is unlikely to see him break into the starting XI quite yet.
Now in the final year of his contract, fitness remains the biggest concern for the Liverpool forward. Sturridge managed to record only 114 minutes of football from the 14 league matches West Brom played during his loan spell earlier this year, mainly due to injuries curtailing his selection.
With the determination he showed during the pre-season, Sturridge’s ability could finally see him flourish as an alternative option at Liverpool which can provide Klopp’s team with an extra dimension.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-2 Liverpool
Palace can prove a hard nut to crack at home as Manchester City found last season. Liverpool have plenty of creative options from the bench this season and with the form and movement they showed against the Hammers, it’s hard to see the Reds failing to score or secure a second successive victory.
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