Liverpool will be aiming to secure a top four finish in the Premier League when they welcome Crystal Palace at Anfield on Sunday.
The exhilarating 2020/21 Premier League season is reaching its end and on Sunday, all the ten matches in Gameweek 38 will be played simultaneously. The top four race is still alive and outgoing champions Liverpool will be eager to continue their comeback run by sealing a place in the UEFA Champions League next season when they play hosts to Crystal Palace at Anfield.
Liverpool have needed to throw the kitchen sink and more in order to rescue a season that was spiraling out of control midway through March. Once seeming like potential title contenders again, the Reds were on a free fall upon the turn of the year, but have held themselves together in the last couple of months, embarking on a nine-game unbeaten run that has helped them go from seventh to fourth.
Crystal Palace, on the other hand, will reach the end of a spell on Sunday, as Roy Hodgson takes charge of the Eagles for one last time. The visitors have typically blown hot and cold in recent weeks and come into this game on the back of a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal, which essentially means that the best they can do is finish 12th, provided they can get a win here.
The reverse fixture, played at Selhurst Park back in December, saw Liverpool cruise to a 7-0 win over Crystal Palace, with Takumi Minamino, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah all on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
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Jurgen Klopp does not have any fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace. On Sunday, the Liverpool manager will be bereft of the services of as many as seven first-team players, with another squad member facing a race against time to prove his fitness.
Diogo Jota is recovering from a foot injury and will face a late fitness test to determine his availability to take on Crystal Palace. But, the likes of Virgil van Dijk (knee), Joel Matip (ankle), Joe Gomez (knee), Ozan Kabak (knock), Caoimhin Kelleher (abdomen), Jordan Henderson (groin) and Divock Origi (knock) all continue to be on the sidelines.
Amid the absence of van Dijk, Matip, Gomez and Kabak, who seems to have played his final game for Liverpool, Rhys Williams will once again start in the central defensive partnership alongside Nathaniel Phillips. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will be the two full-backs, with Alisson Becker taking his usual place in goal.
Up ahead in midfield, Fabinho will play a key role in Liverpool retaining their defensive shape, with the Brazilian sitting at the base of the three-man unit. Thiago Alcantara will pull the strings in the middle of the park, with Georginio Wijnaldum, who might be taking the field for the final time for Liverpool, the midfield workhorse for the Reds.
Finally, the three-man attacking unit will invariably be completed by Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, with Jota unlikely to be fit enough to start. Xherdan Shaqiri will be an option off the bench for Liverpool against Crystal Palace.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Rhys Williams, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Like his counterpart in the Liverpool dugout, Roy Hodgson has a plethora of pressing fitness issues to contend with ahead of the trip to Anfield. On Sunday, the Crystal Palace manager will have to make do without as many as nine first-team players.
The likes of Nathan Ferguson (match fitness), Mamadou Sakho (hamstring), Scott Dann (knock), James McArthur (calf), Luka Milivojevic (personal reasons), Connor Wickham (match fitness) and Eberechi Eze (achilles) are all certain to miss out. In addition, Hodgson is also sweating over the fitness of Christian Benteke (achilles) and Tyrick Mitchell (match fitness).
Should Benteke be unable to prove his fitness, Jean-Philippe Mateta will likely start in the strike partnership alongside Wilfried Zaha, while Patrick van Aanholt ought to be ready to fill in for Mitchell, if he is not ready to start. Meanwhile, considering just how many players are unavailable, Hodgson’s team selection is forced to some extent.
James Tomkins and Gary Cahill should pair up at the heart of the Crystal Palace defence, with Joel Ward expected to complete the defensive unit, which will provide cover to Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal. Up ahead in midfield, Milivojevic’s void should be filled by James McCarthy, with Cheikhou Kouyate being his partner in the middle of the park.
The major absentee for Crystal Palace is Eze and in his stead, Jeffrey Schlupp will likely be stationed on the left wing. The creative onus, though, will fall on the shoulders of Andros Townsend, with Zaha being the attacking powerhouse in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Cahill, van Aanholt; Townsend, Kouyate, McCarthy, Schlupp; Benteke, Zaha
1. Over 3.5 Match Goals @ 1.90
1. Penalty in Match – YES @ 2.62
- Liverpool have won their last seven Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace by an aggregate score of 22-5. However, the Eagles’ last nine Premier League away games against Liverpool have seen them lose three in a row (1998-2013), win three in a row (2015-2017) and then lose three in a row (2017-2020).
- Liverpool have won their final league game in each of the last four seasons, their longest such run since winning their season finale in 13 consecutive campaigns between 1907-08 and 1923-24.
- This is the 12th time Crystal Palace finish a top-flight campaign away from home, with the Eagles winning just one of their previous 11 such matches (D3 L7).
- Sadio Mane has scored in each of his last seven Premier League appearances against Crystal Palace; in the competition’s history, only Robin van Persie (against Stoke) has scored in eight consecutive games against an opponent.
- Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored a combined 19 Premier League goals for Liverpool against Crystal Palace. Only against Arsenal (20) have the trio netted more goals against a single Premier League opponent during their time at Liverpool.
Player to Watch
Mohamed Salah will invariably have the spotlight on him as he continues his duel with Harry Kane to win the Premier League Golden Boot. However, we are going ahead of Georginio Wijnaldum for this section, as the Dutchman prepares to feature in possibly his final game for Liverpool on Sunday at Anfield.
2020/21 has been a season to forget for the most part for Wijnaldum and with a lot of uncertainty over his future, the star midfielder will hope to put all the distractions behind him and five one final push in Liverpool’s top four charge. Will Wijnaldum bow out on a high for the Reds?
Liverpool 3-0 Crystal Palace
Liverpool have slowly been getting back to their best even if they are not quite at their most fluent. However, against a Crystal Palace side that is down to its bare bones, the Reds should be at their merry best, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane expected to run riot, possibly inspiring the former to winning the Golden Boot while also helping Liverpool to a top four finish. We go with a 3-0 Liverpool win.