Following the international break Crystal Palace host league leaders Liverpool at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles run of tough matches has certainly had an impact on their table position, as after four games without a win they have slipped from a lofty top four position down to twelfth. Palace now sit firmly midtable surrounded by teams on similar points. The table is so congested that the gap between fifth place and seventeenth is a mere six points. While the tough run is almost over for Palace collected a scalp like Liverpool’s in front of the home crowd could energize a climb up the table during the busy holiday fixtures.
Liverpool have certainly started the season the way you would expect from the reigning European Champions, with a commanding eight point lead on the title. Liverpool have not lost and have only been held to a draw once in the Premier League this season. There is a great feeling among Reds supporters that this could finally be the year that they win their first Premier League Title.
Crystal Palace may have lost more than just their last game against Chelsea as they could have lost a key men to injury for this week’s game. First-choice right-back, and the squad’s only senior player at the position, Joel Ward was forced off early against Chelsea with a groin injury. Martin Kelly replaced him and is likely in line for the start this weekend; however, Roy Hodgson could opt to give Sam Woods a trial by fire. Many fans will remember the circumstances that saw Aaron Wan-Bissaka get his first chance in the team, and the parallels between then and now cannot be ignored. This is not to say that Woods will have the same success, but these young player will never have a chance to showcase their talents if they cannot play competitive football.
Palace are not the only ones with injury issues as Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp could have a few selection headaches on his hands as well. Left-back Andy Robertson looks unlikely to play in the match after sitting out Scotland’s games over the international break with an ankle injury. This will likely lead to the deployment of James Milner in defence, who has been solid there in the past despite it not being his natural position. Superstar forward Mohamed Salah is also a doubt with an ankle injury which could see a start for Divock Origi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or Xherdan Shaqiri, all string attackers in their own right.
Even without these players the line-up the Liverpool puts out will be one of world class quality at all levels. Despite Salah being unlikely to feature the duo of Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino is still more than enough to strike fear into the heart of any goalkeeper. Mané in particular will be especially threatening as whoever plays at right-back for Palace will have to go head to head with the Red’s leading goal scorer. The key for the Palace attack could be Andros Townsend as the winger will have a chance to go up against whomever Liverpool play at left-back. This could be the best chance to break down a resolute defence that has centre-back Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Allison ready to shut down opposing attacks.
When Liverpool and Crystal Palace have faced off in recent years fans have been treated to some truly special results. The Eagles will likely need even more magic than usual if they are to pull off an upset this week. Liverpool have the look and feel of champions and will not make the mistake of looking past a team like Palace as they may have in years past. Crystal Palace have a talented squad that could cause Liverpool trouble; however, this would require an instant uptick in form from payers such as Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke who have looked far from their best this season.