Can Liverpool put the ghost of Crystal Palace to bed?
Returning to the place where Liverpool’s dreams of winning their first league title since 1990 were effectively shattered provides an opportunity for Brendan Rodgers’ side to right the wrongs of last season. Throwing away a three goal lead opened the door for Manchester City to steal in and lift the Premier League trophy, but much has changed since that harrowing night at Selhurst Park.
Liverpool have struggled to reproduce the magic and quality during the current campaign, with consecutive league defeats against Newcastle and Chelsea placing more pressure on Rodgers to turn the club’s fortunes around. Collecting three points after the international break could banish the demons of last season’s shortcomings in the same stadium, but, more importantly, provide a much-needed morale boost that could see Liverpool’s form improve.
It may be worth shopping around to find the best price to back Liverpool to stop the rot of three Premier League games without a win and prepare themselves for the key trip to Bulgaria in the Champions League.
Facing a team battling for points at the bottom of the table may be the last thing Rodgers needs, but playing Crystal Palace also represents an excellent chance to return to winning ways. Neither teams are in the best of form going into the game, although three points would put Liverpool closer to the top four and push Neil Warnock’s side further into the mire.
Playing on Sunday may work in Liverpool’s favour, with Rodgers potentially having more time on the training ground to prepare his team and iron out errors which continue to cost the team dearly. The Reds will have to be defensively resolute to withstand everything Crystal Palace throw at them, with set-pieces and individual errors remaining Liverpool’s Achilles heel.
Rodgers could be boosted by the return of Jose Enrique and Mamadou Sakho following injury lay-offs, although question marks remain over the fitness of Daniel Sturridge who continues to make gradual progress from a calf injured picked up during the first international break.
There are also doubts over Mario Balotelli due to a hamstring injury, with the Italian maverick’s potential absence leaving Rodgers with no proven goalscorer to call upon.
Warnock may feel like his side have not received the rub of the green this season, but Crystal Palace continue to play good football despite results stating otherwise. Liverpool will have to put in a good away-day performance if they want to come away with three points, as Crystal Palace are likely to come at them with a no fear approach.
In Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha, Warnock’s side possess a considerable threat on the flanks which Glen Johnson and Alberto Moreno must nullify, with a hard-working midfield likely to give Steven Gerrard and company a good battle. A defence which has already shipped 20 Premier League goals may find it difficult to stop Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana creating havoc, but in Frazier Campbell, Crystal Palace have a striker who can give Liverpool’s defence a real headache.
James McArthur remains their only notable absentee as Warnock has the luxury of picking from an otherwise fully fit squad in their aim to extend Liverpool’s poor start to the season.