Liverpool will be aiming to keep their faint Premier League title hopes alive when they take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
The international break is nearly upon us, with the last of the club games before then to be played on Sunday. The action on the day in the Premier League will begin in south London, with Crystal Palace playing hosts to Liverpool at Selhurst Park.
2021/22 has been a transitional season for Crystal Palace, with Patrick Vieira taking charge of the first team following Roy Hodgson’s departure at the end of the previous campaign. The French manager’s arrival was initially greeted with scepticism, but he has done well to prove his naysayers wrong. The Eagles are in contention for a top-half finish, and relegation appears highly unlikely, with 18th-placed Watford ten points behind them.
On the other hand, Liverpool’s campaign has been blighted by inconsistencies after initially sticking closely to Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League title race. While the Reds have lost only two top-flight games thus far, their inability to put teams away has meant they have dropped too many points in stalemates. And they have won only one of their last four games in the division, a 3-0 win over Brentford last weekend.
The reverse fixture, played at Anfield back in September, ended in a 3-0 win for Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 21, 2022
Patrick Vieira has been handed a major boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Liverpool. On Sunday, the Crystal Palace manager will only be without the services of four first-team players, with one squad member back in contention to feature.
That player is Jordan Ayew, who is back in England following Ghana’s shock early ouster from the Africa Cup of Nations. But with the 30-year-old only just back at Vieira’s disposal, he will likely be introduced off the bench in the second half.
Ayew’s return means Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal) and Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast) are the only Crystal Palace players at the Africa Cup of Nations. The other two absentees are James Tomkins (knock) and James McArthur (hamstring).
With Ayew unlikely to start, Michael Olise will be deployed on the right flank, with Eberechi Eze taking up the position on the opposite wing. Odsonne Edouard will spearhead the Crystal Palace attack against Liverpool, although the offensive unit will be fluid in its appearance, with Eze and Olise likely to veer infield at every given opportunity.
Will Hughes will sit at the base of the midfield unit, receiving defensive support from Jeffrey Schlupp and Conor Gallagher. Gallagher will be the creator-in-chief for Crystal Palace, looking to carve out the openings in the half-spaces. On the other hand, Schlupp will have a dynamic role to play from midfield, with the 29-year-old given the license to carry the ball up the pitch.
Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi will pair up in the heart of the Crystal Palace defence, with the duo also tasked with building up play from the back. Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell will be the two full-backs, but the pair are unlikely to carry much offensive threat, with Liverpool expected to pin Palace back in their own half. Finally, Jack Butland will take his place between the sticks, having recently usurped Vicente Guaita with many tremendous performances.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Butland; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Gallagher, Hughes, Schlupp; Olise, Edouard, Eze
Like his counterpart in the Crystal Palace dugout, Jurgen Klopp does not have any new injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to Selhurst Park. On Sunday, the Liverpool manager will have to make do without eight first-team players.
While there have been concerns over the fitness of Fabinho, the Brazilian will likely be fit enough to start at the base of the Liverpool midfield. But the same cannot be said of Nathaniel Phillips (fractured cheekbone), Thiago Alcantara (hip), Harvey Elliott (ankle) and Divock Origi (knee), with the quartet still on the sidelines.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 21, 2022
In addition, the three goalscorers in the reverse fixture, Naby Keita (Guinea), Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt), remain in Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations. In Keita, Thiago and Elliott’s continued absence, Curtis Jones’s run in the starting eleven will continue.
Jones will start alongside Jordan Henderson and Fabinho in the middle of the park, with the youngster being given the license to stitch play together with incisive passes. Fabinho will aim to hold the fort in front of the defensive line while also transitioning from defence to attack.
Up ahead in attack, Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino and Takumi Minamino will form the frontline. Jota will largely take up central areas despite starting on the right flank on paper. Minamino and Firmino’s movements will hold the key for Liverpool, bringing Jota into play in and around the Crystal Palace box.
Ibrahima Konate could come in for Joel Matip at the heart of the Liverpool defence as Virgil van Dijk’s partner. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will assume the two full-back roles, with the duo being Liverpool’s chief creators against Crystal Palace. Finally, Alisson Becker will return in goal after Caoimhin Kelleher’s solid showing against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Jones; Jota, Firmino, Minamino
- Crystal Palace have lost each of their last nine Premier League games against Liverpool since a 2-1 win at Anfield in April 2017. Their previous four defeats have been by an aggregate score of 16-0.
- Crystal Palace have only won twice in 10 Premier League games and are in danger of losing successive home fixtures for the first time under Patrick Vieira. But the Eagles have won two of their last three Premier League games against sides starting the day in the top three of the table (L1), beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 and Manchester City 2-0 this season.
- Liverpool have not won any of their last four Premier League games in London (D3 L1), with the Reds last having a longer winless league run in the capital between November 2014 and October 2015 (5). But Jurgen Klopp’s men have won 10 of their 11 Premier League games this season against teams who began the round of fixtures in the bottom half of the table, only dropping points in a 3-3 draw at Brentford.
- Conor Gallagher has been directly involved in 10 Premier League goals in 18 appearances. Andrew Johnson is the only Crystal Palace player ever to reach double figures in fewer games.
- Roberto Firmino’s ten most recent Premier League goals for Liverpool have all come away from home, starting with a brace against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last season.
Player to Watch
For a long time, 2021/22 was threatening to be a difficult season for Curtis Jones, with Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita ahead of him in the pecking order. Even Harvey Elliott got chances to impress ahead of the English under-21 international, and there was a sense that Jones might benefit more by going on a loan spell instead of remaining with the Liverpool first-team squad.
But the 20-year-old has turned his fortunes around spectacularly in the last few weeks, producing a top-class display that played a key role in Liverpool’s win over Arsenal earlier this week. Another influential performance against Crystal Palace will leave Jurgen Klopp with a selection dilemma when Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Harvey Elliott return.
Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool
Before Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane left for the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool fans would have been left sweating over their team’s prospects for the duration of their absence. But the Reds have performed admirably for the most part, and the display against Brentford last weekend would have impressed many.
Crystal Palace will make things difficult for Liverpool, but the in-form Diogo Jota will likely make a meaningful impact again to clinch all three points for the Reds. That being said, Conor Gallagher might pull a goal or two back, although that will not be enough to salvage anything out of the game. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Jurgen Klopp’s men.