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Klopp Praises Palace's Offensive Power

The German manager urges his defenders to be prepared for the return of Christian Benteke.

Crystal Palace v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Christian Benteke was never going to be a particularly good fit at Merseyside, particularly under possession-enthusiast Brendan Rodgers, and in the end, the Antrim-man's strategy highlighted the Belgian's weaknesses while nullifying his strengths. The production — a goal every 190 minutes — wasn't particularly bad relative to Benteke's previous exploits, but his impact on the team's style of play and overall production was noticeable.

That is not to say that Benteke is a bad footballer. When playing in a side less concerned with possession and more interested in maximising counter attacks, set-pieces and delivery from the wide areas, the former Villa man can be a highly effective offensive hub. In Samuele Allardici's Crystal Palace side, flanked by pacey, opportunistic widemen Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, the 26-year old has looked revitalised, and while the overall quality of the team — particularly during the late ennui of Alan Pardew's reign — means his opportunities are limited, Allardyce's style of play is tailor-made for the big Belgian.

Jürgen Klopp is, naturally, well aware of this.

“He’s not 100 per cent to defend,” said the Reds manager. “When the ball is in the air, he is the major and main threat because that’s unbelievable – we felt it a lot of times here when we trained together.

“He has scored 13 or 14 goals for Crystal Palace now. He is obviously another player with confidence, in a good run and all that stuff. Like it is always when you play against Zlatan, other strikers, these kinds of strikers – tall, good with their back to the goal – you have to avoid the crosses and you have to avoid the passes. That’s how it works.

Klopp continued, “If we let them cross 50 balls it’s pretty likely he will have a few dangerous headers. That’s not his only strength, of course, but that’s a real strength.

“How it always is, you have to avoid passes in this area, and not only for him, because if you are only concentrated on Christian then Zaha and Townsend are around you.

“That’s really one of the best offensive lines in the Premier League. We respect this. We know how to play against it, but nevertheless we have to show it.”

For Klopp — typically referring to most events as somewhere between the coolest and not the coolest — that borders on hyperbole. Zaha is on a tremendous run of form compared to his previous dribbly ineffectiveness and Townsend has been able to shed the worst of his shoot on sight-itis, but the trio has only combined for a total of 17 non-penalty goals this year.

Palace's focus on counter attacking football and set piece mayhem does match up poorly with Liverpool's tendency to overcommit to the press in transition and inability to stay conscious when defending corners and free kicks, however, and Sam Allardyce will relish the opportunity to play spoiler to the "soft German" when they face off at Anfield. The defensive unit will do well to heed their manager's words.

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