Defense will be a concern for both Liverpool and Crystal Palace when the two teams clash at Anfield on Sunday. For Liverpool, Ragnar Klavan will not be fit to participate, while Joël Matip and Lucas Leiva are both doubts for this match. That leaves only Dejan Lovren and possibly Joe Gomez to hold the back line for the Reds, should all three of Lucas, Klavan, and Matip be unable to play.
In the case of Sam Allardyce and Crystal Palace, his best defender belongs to us. Mamadou Sakho, on loan from Liverpool, can’t play against his home club, which will have Allardyce worried. However, in his stead should be James Tomkins — if the defender can make it back from a calf injury in time.
With five games left in the season, Liverpool are coming off of back-to-back victories in the type of matches that they’ve historical struggled with. Neither game was one for the highlights reel, but maybe ugly, gutted-out victories are what Liverpool need to gain confidence going into this last handful of fixtures. The race for top four rests on a knife’s edge right now, and the Reds will need to pick up another invaluable three points against Palace to keep their precarious grip on it for another week.
In October, Liverpool came away from Selhurst Park with a 4-2 victory over Palace in one of this writer’s favorite games of the season. Five goals were scored by both teams between the 16th and 44th minutes, in a gloriously disastrous 30 minutes of football that, by a coin flip from the gods, favored Liverpool in the end. For the Reds, Can, Lovren, Matip, and Firmino all got in on the frenetic action on the day, while James McArthur bagged a brace for the home team.
Allardyce brought Sakho to Selhurst Park on loan in January in order to plug up their leaky defense, and the results have been impressive. In April alone, they’ve beaten both Chelsea and Arsenal, as well as coming from two goals behind last week to steal a point from Leicester City. They’re in 15th on the table, but with enough points that, barring a sudden nosedive, they’ll likely live to fight in the Premier League another season.
Klopp may be forced to get creative with his starting line-up, should Lucas, Matip, and Klavan all miss out on Sunday’s match, along with Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, and Sadio Mané already on the injury list. Could we see Trent Alexander-Arnold get another Premier League start? Or perhaps Alberto Moreno will see some playing time in order to get James Milner back in the midfield. He did pretty well against Crystal Palace last October, after all. Will Marko Grujic make an appearance? Will Daniel Sturridge finally have 90 minutes in his legs to get another start?
Former Liverpool player Christian Benteke is Palace’s biggest threat, with 14 goals to his name this season. He’ll likely be quite interested in sinking his teeth into a weak defense and exploiting his advantage in the air.
For Liverpool (4-3-3):
Mignolet; Clyne, Gomez, Lovren, Milner; Can, Lucas, Wijnaldum; Firmino, Origi, Coutinho
I’m using my crystal ball to say that Lucas plays on Sunday, mostly because otherwise I have no idea how the midfield shakes out. It might be Matip joining Lovren in the back line, though, or it might be that neither Matip nor Lucas is available for selection. Feel free to speculate in the comments about how you think Klopp will handle the starting line-up.
Kickoff is set for 4:30PM BST/11:30AM EST tomorrow on Sky Sports 1 in the UK. Elsewhere, Optus Sport in Australia, Sportsnet World Now in Canada, DAZN in Germany, Star Sports Select HD1 in India, Supersport 3 Africa in Kenya, Astro Supersport 3 in Malaysia, and NBC Sports Network in the US are carrying the match. You can find full listings at LivesoccerTV.
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