Liverpool face Crystal Palace on Sunday as the Reds look to keep their Champions League charge going. Here’s everything you need to know about the Eagles.
Premier League form: W – W – W – L – W – D
League position: 15th
Last win: 3-0 vs Arsenal, April 10
Away: Won five, drawn three, lost eight
The current Crystal Palace side is a mix of typical Sam Allardyce and their previous version under Alan Pardew: strong on the wings and counter-attacking, and a lot more solid defensively.
Their excellent run of form has been down to improved individuals in the defensive third, including the Reds’ on-loan Mamadou Sakho, and a far more cohesive structure out of possession.
They’ll play forward quickly to the wide men, who look to run at defenders and get early crosses in or shoot. With Christian Benteke up front, there should be no surprises to the Reds’ defence as to how Palace play.
It’s 4-2-3-1, flood the midfield off the ball and exploit pace and space after turnovers.
Andros Townsend is a man back in form after a poor first half of the season, but each of the three attacking midfielders—he, Wilf Zaha and Jason Puncheon—have the capacity to beat defenders for skill or pace, and aim for the big man in the box.
They’ll work on getting behind Liverpool’s full-backs as often as possible and deliver into the area for Benteke to attack, with close-range efforts off crosses or set pieces the primary route to goal.
Palace have the second-lowest percentage of shots from outside the box in the Premier League—they’re more likely to go wide again and look for another delivery or dribble rather than ask Yohan Cabaye to drill one from range.
Three keys to win
Double up on the wings. First and foremost, to nullify Palace’s threat Liverpool have to ensure they are never left one-vs-one down the wings. While crossing isn’t hugely efficient, if enough area aimed toward a towering presence, Palace will score.
It may necessitate a change in tactics from Jurgen Klopp but either the wide forwards or central midfielders must work back to protect the full-backs, stop Zaha and Townsend going past easily and delivering crosses. James Milner in particular could struggle against their pace.
Flood the box. It’s noticeable that watching the goals Palace concede, particularly in the past two months, many come when teams play passes or crosses in toward the six-yard box or penalty spot and have committed plenty of players forward.
It can’t just be the striker and a wide forward who are ready to pounce; Liverpool must be brave enough to push the midfielders up higher, be in the area and increase the chances a ball drops a Red shirt’s way.
Palace can get very last-ditch and messy about their defensive work and an extra home shirt or two to focus on could pay huge dividends.
Remain patient. Above all else, Liverpool—players and fans—need to remember to remain patient. Palace have kept five clean sheets in their last 10 games; they’re very much improved in that respect. For context, five clean sheets takes Liverpool back to the win over Manchester City at the end of 2016.
If the goal doesn’t come straight away, keep the pressure building, keep shape and dominance of territory and trust that movement and repetition will break down Allardyce’s men.
As long as Palace don’t score first, that is.
It’s all about finding a route to goal for Liverpool at home, with the first strike against bottom-half clubs proving tough at times. Divock Origi has been trusted to start the last few and needs to continue being a reliable option to lead the line if he wants increased responsibility in the team.
Give us a goal, Div.
For Palace, it’s going to be a former Red, isn’t it? Benteke is the obvious reference point and the ex-No. 9 has three goals and an assist in his last four games.
Palace have defensive concerns; Scott Dann is out with a calf injury, James Tomkins faces a fitness test and Sakho is ineligible. Up front, Connor Wickham is a long-term absentee but Loic Remy may be fit to return. Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda has been out since before the turn of the year, with no return in sight as yet.
Possible XI: Wayne Hennessey, Joel Ward, James Tomkins, Martin Kelly, Jeff Schlupp, Luka Milivojevic, Yohan Cabaye, Andros Townsend, Jason Puncheon, Wilf Zaha, Christian Benteke.