The FourFourTwo Preview: Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
Attack vs Defence II: This time it's in Croydon.
If Liverpool are left feeling sorry for themselves after their agonising defeat to Chelsea last Sunday, they should remind themselves how delighted they’d be to find themselves in this position – still with a chance of winning the league with two games to play – at the start of the season.
CRYSTAL PALACE FORM
- Palace 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- West Ham 0-1 Palace (Prem)
- Everton 2-3 Palace (Prem)
- Palace 1-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-3 Palace (Prem)
- Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea (Prem)
- Norwich 2-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 3-2 Man City (Prem)
- West Ham 1-2 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Spurs (Prem)
An extra couple of days to compose themselves ahead of this Monday evening trip to south London may not be a bad thing, although if Manchester City win at Everton on Saturday, the pressure may become almost unbearable.
Many neutrals may not have enjoyed Chelsea’s bus-parking antics at Anfield, but the fact they proved successful is likely to mean more teams try and frustrate the Reds in a similar fashion from this point onwards.
Crystal Palace, who like Liverpool saw an impressively long run of successive victories brought to an end last weekend, will be next to test the Reds’ composure.
The spectacular turnaround Tony Pulis has inspired at Selhurst Park has been down largely to defensive organisation and the ability to swiftly and clinically strike opponents on the counter.
Steven Gerrard may wish to check his footwear twice before kick-off…
Palace should be at full strength, which may mean Kagisho Dikgacoi once again starts on the bench, with Pulis preferring to deploy Mile Jedinak and Joe Ledley in midfield for the defeat to Man City.
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson will serve the third match of the three-game suspension earned for his dismissal in the recent win over City. Jose Enrique (knee) should be the Reds’ only other absentee.
Key battle: Joel Ward vs Raheem Sterling
Having won many plaudits for his performances at right-back in the first seven months of his debut Premier League season, Palace’s Joel Ward is now showing he can do it on the left too.
The 24-year-old has started on the left of the back four in Palace’s last eight matches, during which time the Eagles have secured Premier League safety by picking up 16 points.
Brendan Rodgers has done some tinkering with his front-line in recent weeks, but the likelihood is that Sterling will line up on the Liverpool right on Monday evening. That’s where he played against Chelsea last weekend when, against a solid and well-organised defence, he struggled to make an impact in the attacking third. He created 3 goalscoring chances, but they were all short passes to tee up speculative efforts from outside the penalty area. He also succeeded with just 5 of his 12 attempted take-ons.
The Palace back four may not be as individually talented – or perhaps as motivated – as Chelsea’s were last Sunday, but they will certainly sit deep and be well organised. Sterling & Co. must prove they have the patience and guile to break them down, having failed to break through Jose Mourinho’s bus last time out.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L'pool 3-1 Palace (Prem, Oct 13)
- Palace 2-1 L'pool (LC, Oct 05)
- Palace 1-0 L'pool (Prem, Apr 05)
- L'pool 3-2 Palace (Prem, Nov 04)
- L'pool 0-2 Palace (FAC, Feb 03)
This fixture pits the two main contenders for the Manager of the Year award against one another. Rodgers has transformed Liverpool from mid-table jokers to genuine title contenders, while Pulis has helped Palace secure a second successive season of top-flight football for the first time in over 20 years. With Everton’s Roberto Martinez now looking likely to miss out on Champions League qualification, only a title win for Manuel Pellegrini or Mourinho could deny Rodgers or Pulis the gong. Even then, you could (and probably would) argue that winning the league with a team assembled at great cost wasn’t necessarily a greater achievement.
Facts and figures
- Liverpool have won only 4 of 14 trips to promoted teams since 2009/10.
- 12 of Palace’s last 14 home games have had fewer than 3 goals.
- 5 of Liverpool’s last 8 trips to middle-third teams have been level at half-time.
- 9 of Palace’s 10 defeats under Tony Pulis have been to nil.
Best Bet: HT/FT Draw/Liverpool @ 4.25
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Palace to make things difficult, but Liverpool to make things interesting. 2-1 to the visitors.