Penalties may have been needed to separate Manchester City and Liverpool in the League Cup final with neither side truly able to take control of the meeting at Wembley, but there was no question about who the better side were when they met at Anfield earlier in the week.
Roberto Firmino added the coup de grace early in the second half after goals from Adam Lallana and James Milner gave the hosts a comfortable lead going into the break as Jurgen Klopp’s inconsistent team showed the flip-side to their often lackadaisical performances by crushing their visitors where they stood — a win that has put them back in the European football conversation with the Merseysiders sitting a mere six-points out of a Champions League spot.
“Six points is not the world. We have to show it, Consistency has not been our hobby until now. We need to improve that,” said Klopp when asked about the unlikely chance of the Reds finishing in the top four. “Our starting position isn’t a masterclass but we are still in a good enough position to achieve something,” mused the German. “I have some hard selection decisions to make. We haven’t had this before. We have to use this new quality to change and rest.”
If Liverpool are going to break out of this cycle of inconsistency, there wouldn’t be a more fitting place to do it than Selhurst Park with the Reds unable to manage a win in their last three outings against Crystal Palace.
Philippe Coutinho looks set to make his 110th Premier League appearance after he was an unused substitute in the win over City and he’s likely to be joined by Daniel Sturridge, who was left out of the squad completely after completing 120-minutes at Wembley, and Mamadou Sakho, who returned to training earlier in the week after a clash of heads with Emre Can ended the French defenders involvement in the League Cup final early in the first half.
Although the narrative has been focused on Liverpool finding some kind of rhythm, the Eagles could do with a bit of that as well with the Alan Pardew’s side still winless since the turn of the New Year. Looking like serious contenders for a European spot earlier in the season, Palace have nosedived as of late and without a victory in their last eleven outings.
Pape Souare will be back in contention after returning from a ban, but neither James McArthur or Jason Puncheon will be fit enough to feature when Liverpool come to town on Sunday. Pardew could also end up being without the services of both Connor Wickham, who has scored twice in each of his last two matches, and Wayne Hennessey, who gave up a goal right at the death to ex-Reds striker Fabio Borini as Sunderland snatched a share of the spoils at the Stadium of Light with the Eagles only moments away from putting their winless run behind them.
Liverpool, of course, won’t be looking to do their hosts any favours, but putting the Selhurst Park hoodoo behind them is going to be a tough task. It’s one thing to talk about the gap to the top four and it’s another to actually take a shot at closing it….