CRYSTAL PALACE VS. LIVERPOOL
| Saturday, December 19th |
Premier League | Selhurst Park
12:30PM GMT/ 7:30AM EST
Jürgen Klopp was in a jovial mood in his pre-match press conference, despite the bad news breaking about clubs’ refusal to allow five substitutes in the Premier League — a player welfare issue Klopp has been a vocal proponent of.
Players are returning to fitness, though this match might come a bit too soon for some (Klopp has been careful to clarify that Thiago is not in full team training as yet, for instance, and James Milner might not be quite ready). Some rotation can be expected, depending on squad fitness levels (Gini seems to play every possible minute regardless). Because there is a break following this match as after facing Palace Liverpool have a “rest” until a return to action on December 27th, it would not be horribly unexpected to see players on a lot of minutes asked to go again.
It would not be a massive surprise if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Naby Keïta manage quite a few minutes in London on Saturday, though these minutes might come off the bench. Joël Matip and maybe James Milner might return, but Diogo Jota, Konstantinos Tsimikas, Xherdan Shaqiri, and of course both of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain unavailable.
Liverpool’s form against Tottenham was miles ahead of their poor performance against Fulham; if the Reds can achieve their desired levels, they should have too much for Palace, though fans should expect a well-fought game, as Palace have proved their ability to stay in games thus far this season, even if they go down.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Keïta, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mané
London has been placed into Tier 3, so Saturday’s match will take place behind closed doors, and Palace will lack the support that might have otherwise helped them face up against new league leaders Liverpool.
While the Eagles are not looking at an injury list as long as Klopps’, Roy Hodgson has some challenges in his team selection: Christian Benteke is suspended following his red card against West Ham; Connor Wickham, Martin Kelly, Nathan Ferguson, and Wayne Hennessey are unavailable through injury — and this match might be a bit too soon for Mamadou Sakho’s return to fitness. Wilfried Zaha has returned to the side, though, and Palace has looked bright in recent fixtures despite these significant challenges.
Hodgson doesn’t have a great record against Liverpool since leaving as manager, and with Palace he’s on five straight defeats, though some of these scorelines have been tight. While an away win against Palace might normally be expected, in such a demanding schedule it’s hard to know what form we’ll see.
Palace have also been strong with staying in games, including against then-league leaders Spurs last weekend, when Palace came back to earn a draw in the final ten minutes — something to pay attention to, since despite fixture-fatigue, matches involving Liverpool have been alive late on: the Reds have conceded or scored in the final 15 minutes in 10 of the 13 league matches thus far this season.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “They have a confident situation and I am impressed by their performance level ... They look good, they look sharp. It will be a tough one.”
Roy Hodgson: “For the second weekend in a row we meet the team that’s on top of the table and teams are on top of the table for a reason: because they’ve got exceptional quality.”
Referee: Jonathan Moss Assistants: Marc Perry, Dan Robathan Fourth official: Stuart Attwell VAR: Simon Hooper Assistant VAR: Dan Cook
Kickoff is set for 13:30PM GMT/7:30AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.