After 37 matches, endless injuries and a season we won’t want to remember in a hurry, it all comes down to this for Liverpool…
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace
Sunday, May 23, 2021 – 4pm (BST)
Premier League (38)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Finishing fourth isn’t something we dreamed about back in September, but the many obstacles the Reds have had to hurdle would now make it a fantastic achievement.
Jurgen Klopp‘s men were dead and buried not too long ago, but an unlikely run of six wins and two draws from eight games has put destiny in their own hands.
As 10,000 fans look forward to cheering Liverpool on this weekend, the Reds know that a win will all but certainly seal Champions League football next season.
Granted, Crystal Palace are a bogey team and Roy Hodgson upsetting his old club would be typical of this season, but everything points towards a home win.
This manager and these players deserve a final day to remember, having had the agony of not celebrating the title triumph in front of supporters.
If they can get the job done on Sunday, the post-match scenes threaten to be memorable, as the adoring faithful laud two great feats in their own special way over the past 12 months.
It promises to be emotional, it promises to be nerve-wracking, and if this season has taught us anything, it’s that drama of some kind is around the corner.
Failing to finish in the top-four doesn’t bear thinking about – don’t even think about it, Liverpool.
Klopp has no new injury concerns after the win over Burnley on Wednesday, which will come as a relief.
That means there is every chance the Liverpool manager goes with exactly the same starting lineup that won at Turf Moor.
Alisson has been in strong form recently and is a certainty to play, with Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams needing one more big performance at the heart of the defence.
If they can ensure Liverpool win, they will have played a major role in the most unlikely of top-four finishes – Phillips, in particular.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson will be looking to create from full-back, while Fabinho and the in-form Thiago should be joined by Gini Wijnaldum in midfield, on what is expected to be the Dutchman’s last Reds appearance.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino look nailed-on to make up Liverpool’s attack, although there is a slim chance Diogo Jota could yet feature.
Crystal Palace are without exciting youngster Eberechi Eze, who suffered a serious Achilles injury, while ex-Red Christian Benteke may also miss out.
Mamadou Sakho, James Tomkins and James McArthur are all long-term absentees.
Possible Palace XI: Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Cahill, Van Aanholt; McCarthy, Kouyate, Schlupp; Townsend, Benteke, Zaha
Last 5 at Home to Crystal Palace (All Competitions)
Won 4-0 – June 2020 (Alexander-Arnold, Salah, Fabinho, Mane)
Won 4-3 – January 2019 (Salah x2, Firmino, Mane; Townsend, Tomkins, Meyer)
Won 1-0 – August 2017 (Mane)
Lost 2-1 – April 2017 (Coutinho; Benteke x2)
Lost 2-1 – November 2015 (Coutinho; Bolasie, Dann)
Did You Know?
Liverpool’s centre-back woes will forever define this season, with the Reds having to make do without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip for the vast majority of the campaign.
Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have been used in defence, while even both summer additions, Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, are now sidelined, too.
Despite this, Liverpool actually have the fourth-best defensive record in the league in 2020/21, conceding 42 goals in their 37 matches.
Only Man City (32), Chelsea (34) and Arsenal (39) are superior to the Reds, with Man United (43) hilariously lagging behind, despite apparently being title winners in-waiting soon!
That’s an outstanding effort from Liverpool, who have dug deep so much as a defensive unit.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 3-0 vs. Burnley
Won 2-1 vs. West Brom
Won 4-2 vs. Man United
Won 2-0 vs. Southampton
Drew 1-1 vs. Newcastle
Crystal Palace – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 3-1 vs. Arsenal
Won 3-2 vs. Aston Villa
Lost 3-1 vs. Southampton
Won 2-0 vs. Sheffield United
Lost 2-0 vs. Man City
Speaking in his final pre-match press conference of the season, Klopp couldn’t hide his excitement at the prospect of supporters being back inside Anfield:
“It’s an interesting one because we have supporters back. And I would like to use the opportunity to welcome them back.
“You cannot imagine how much I’m looking forward to seeing you all again. At least, 10,000 of you!
“But it’s really important with all the excitement that we don’t lose patience after a minute or something if it’s not going the right direction.
“We need the best support possible, very positive, very encouraging like we left each other, I don’t know when – feels like years ago!
“Let’s go with all we have, plus 10,000 positive crazy people in the stadium, can’t wait.”
TV & Liveblog Info
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace is a 4pm kickoff and is live in the UK on Sky Sports Main Event (3.50pm) and Sky Sports Premier League (3pm).
A nervous Henry Jackson will be in charge of This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog from 3.15pm – come and keep him company and partake in some group therapy!