Welcome back you beautiful bunch of unbearables! Didn’t watch one second of international footy and it was still the most interesting break of the year. There has been scuffles, tussles, and controversy galore. I don’t think there is any need to go into detail as it has all been very well documented and posted. I’m not going speak on the subject except to say that those boys in light blue are saltier than McDonald’s fries. Onward we go to London. Selhurst Park is the destination, and Crystal Palace is the target. Another three points are on the line as we get back into psychological thriller that is the Premier League. Let’s take a look at how this is going to go down.
They are coming off of one of the toughest runs anyone will face this entire season. Winless in their last 4, Palace are on the final leg of a 5 match stretch in which they will have faced five of the top six teams in the league. In the last 4, they have only brought home 1 point and that was against Arsenal who are also winless since that draw.
In the last 4 matches, the Eagles have given up exactly 2 goals in each game. They have averaged 38% possession, but that story can be better told by splitting up the Chelsea and Man City games from the Leicester and Arsenal games. Against the more open Leicester and Arsenal they averaged 43.5%. Against the more possession dominant City and Chelsea they only averaged 33.5%. Roy Hodgson’s men have not been the easiest back line to break down during this stretch. The only team of the 4 to score in the first half hour were Arsenal, and Palace was able to come back and draw the match. The other three teams were much more dominant on the day but took a while to break through. This was due to a central defense of Cahill, Tomkins, and Milivojevic. They are very good up the middle and will sit back and frustrate teams that try to play straight through them. In the last 4 matches they have seen their opponents take 73 shots with 26 of them going on target. Given the clinical nature of the teams they’ve faced I find it impressive that Palace only conceded 8 goals. They have defended well for the first half of their matches so far, but when the counter attack isn’t working, its only a matter of time before goals start pouring on.
Their strengths in recent years have been their ability to punish on the counter attack, but this season it is not working for them. Ayew has not been able to hold the ball up and Zaha has been kept in check by the likes of rookie Reece James. I believe there is some visible frustration with not being transferred this past window. Currently their only strength is the defensive triangle of Cahill, Tomkins, and Milivojevic.
The Eagles’ weakest spots seem to be down each wing. The left wing in particular. When van Aanholt attempts to get on the front foot, he is not being covered by MacArthur. This is leading to right wingers torching that side of the field. This could end up being one of those days where Trent drops 10 or 15 crosses into the box.
Our mentality giants are coming off the match of the season so far. Having given us all a few extra grey hairs and some heart problems, they finally hit us with a true gift. They carved City like a thanksgiving turkey on the counter attack. I would not expect to see that again this week as Palace will be comfortable giving us the majority of possession (like they have a choice). I fancy this match to be very similar to when we played Arsenal in the third match of the season. Crystal Palace will be looking to congest the middle of pitch when defending. Early on we can expect Trent to be whipping crosses into the box, but will be playing right into the Eagles game plan. They will be looking to get those crosses cleared out to start a counter. Our main creators have been the fullbacks with 36 goals created, but due to injury and the nature of this game, I believe we will see this midfield take on the duty of creating big chances. Having racked up a goal and an assist against City, the midfielders will be looking to build on that performance. This could be the key to a comfortable 3 points in south London. If Gini and Hendo can cause enough problems it will open the back line up enough to get the front 3 in to do their thing. If those two aren’t getting it done offensively, look for Klopp to bring on Ox or Keita to spice things up a bit.
Crystal Palace’s only RB, Joel Ward, suffered an injury against Chelsea. If he is not fit to play this weekend we can expect Sam Woods to get the start. Woods is an academy prospect with one first team start under his belt. That start came against Colchester in the league cup and he did not disappoint in his debut. Key playmaker Wilfred Zaha also ended the day at Stamford Bridge with ice on his ankle, but his injury appears to be minor.
For Liverpool, we will certainly be without starting CB Joel Matip, and we make look to Dejan Lovren to fill that void like he has been for the past few weeks. I do not think Klopp will risk starting Joe Gomez due to Lovren’s current form and the fact that Gomez took a knock during the international break. Everyday it is looking more likely that Mo Salah will miss the match this weekend. He has been playing through an ankle injury since Choudhury’s reckless tackle during the Leicester match. The other big concern this week is Andy Robertson, who missed out on international duty due to an ankle injury. Being the captain for Scotland, it has to be pretty bad for Robbo to miss any kind of football. If he and/or Salah are unable to go, Klopp will most likely plug in Origi and Milner.
Come gameday, Klopp will have our best, healthiest 11 on the pitch ready to add another 3 points to the bank. Just because Palace have not been up to par in their previous matches, it doesn’t mean they won’t show up to play this weekend. Every team in the league wants to beat the European Champions, and just like when we went to Villa Park and Sheffield, Crystal Palace and their fans will be going into this tie as a cup final. In the end, I trust in Klopp, and I trust our boys to get it done. Y.N.W.A