LIVERPOOL VS CRYSTAL PALACE
| Saturday, January 19th |
Premier League | Anfield
3:00 PM GMT /10:00 AM EST
Saturday’s kick-off against Crystal Palace is another opportunity for Liverpool to show their tremendous progress under Jürgen Klopp. In recent seasons-gone-by the Reds often came up short against the strugglers in the Premier League table. Teams that were content to sit back and defend had proven difficult for Liverpool to break down. Winnable matches often predictability ended with dropped points due to a lack of composure, talent, or ideas.
Last season, Klopp demonstrated unequivocally that he his the right manager for Liverpool’s ambitions. This season has been even more impressive. With Alisson in goal and Joe Gomez joining Virgil van Dijk in defense, Liverpool’s start in August was exceptional. The balance in the squad has been a clear issue for several years. But now there are great players and leaders all over the pitch. The mental side of the team is stronger than it’s been in at least a decade.
Still, it’s Crystal Palace and an entire day from the first whistle my hands are already sweaty.
Roy Hodgson returns yet again to Anfield on Saturday and perhaps that's enough said about him. Palace sit in 14th place in the league, just four points above the relegation zone. The Eagles have only won six matches this season but, interestingly, one of those wins was against Manchester City. At the Etihad.
Palace will be hopeful that they can repeat that miraculous outcome against the current league leaders but Liverpool’s unbeaten run at home stretches back as far as the eye can see. Apart from potentially missing Trent Alexander-Arnold, Klopp will field a strong side at Anfield.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Milner, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Fabinho, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mané
James Milner is a likely candidate to fill in for Trent if the Liverpool right-back doesn’t pass a last minute fitness test. Gini Wijnaldum could also miss out due to a minor injury but Klopp has other midfielders that can do the job against Palace. Naby Keita needs minutes in order find his rhythm, just as Fabinho did. This could be a good match to give the Guinean the start in an attacking role with Fabinho and Jordan Henderson anchoring the center.
Hodgson could be forced to start his third string goalkeeper against Liverpool. First-choice, Vicente Guaita, was replaced by Wayne Hennessey in Palace’s loss to Wolverhampton last weekend because of a calf injury. Then Hennessey went and got himself an issue with his thigh. So the doors might be wide open for Julian Speroni to step back into he limelight.
Speroni has been at Crystal Palace nearly his entire career and knows what’s what. But at 39, the Argentine could have some trouble against the attacking blizzard of Liverpool’s front three.
Sadio Mané alone has scored six goals against Palace in his time and if he gets another on Saturday it would be a fourth consecutive match where he’s put one passed a Palace keeper. I’m sorry, Speroni.
Liverpool need to win every match to keep up their four-point distance from Manchester City. And unfortunately, there aren’t any easy games in the league. Palace have plenty of attacking threats in their squad and Liverpool’s defense will need to be just as turned on as the midfield and attack.
Palace will have their moments on the counter attack, but the real question is, can Liverpool break apart a stubborn Hodgson bus. I think they can. And I think they will. But I also think about Roy Hodgson’s darkness and how it permeates the air and I worry, you know?
What the Managers Had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “Was it Palace when I felt lonely? Now it’s completely different. We have reached a nice level. We’ve used that atmosphere.”
Roy Hodgson: “(Against Man City) We scored good goals and defended well. I would think that’s the type of task we should prepare for again.”
Referee: Jonathan Moss Assistants: Marc Perry, Andy Halliday Fourth official: Andre Marriner
Kickoff is set for 3:00 PM GMT/10:00 AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, 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.