After eking out a narrow win at the AMEX Stadium last weekend, Liverpool are back at home on Saturday and looking to hold on to top spot in the Premier League when Crystal Palace roll in to town.
The hoodoo that’s come along with match-ups against the Eagles in recent seasons seems to have been broken with the Reds winning five of their last six outings against Roy Hodgon’s side, but as we slide in to the business end of the season firmly in control of our own destiny, the anxiety that comes along with being on top continues to build.
As we all know, Palace, and Hodgson in particular, know how to spoil a party. And, of course, they know how to cause an upset — just ask Manchester City and they’ll set you straight.
The Eagles snagged a surprise win in Manchester last month with
a well taken Jeffrey Schlupp effort, an Andros Townsend stunner and a coolly taken Luka Milivojevi? penalty just enough to get them full-points at the Etihad Stadium.
Can they repeat those heroics at Anfield? It’ll be a big ask, but prior to losing out on their last visit to Merseyside, they won three matches on the bounce there. If they’re going to get back to winning ways, they’re going to rely on their third-choice ‘keeper Julian Speroni with both Wayne Hennessey and Vicente Guaita sidelined through injury.
Liverpool, as usual, have problems of their own and they’re expected to make late fitness calls on both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum after Reds boss Jurgen Klopp refused to rule them out of action. James Milner could pop-in to the right-back slot if needed, but we should see a more familiar face in the heart of the defense with Joel Matip the most likely partner for Virgil van Dijk.
“Gini and Trent, we will decide day by day. It’s of course not cool,” explained Klopp, speaking to the press at Melwood earlier today. “For both, it will be really, really close for tomorrow,” added the gaffer, contradicting reports that TAA could miss up to a month. “I don’t want to close any doors before anybody tells me I have to.”
We’re an undeniably better team with those two in the side and if they’re fit enough play it’ll be a bonus for everyone — except for Palace, that is.
Hodgson will be in for a chilly reception at Anfield, but the likes of Mamadou Sakho, who had a special affinity with the Kop, and Christian Benteke, who got the square peg – round hole treatment during his time on Merseyside , should fare better with the former expected to come up agains the Reds potent attacking trio and the latter more likely to play his part from the bench a bit further on in the day.
For Liverpool, it should be three-points in the bag and another week on top of the heap, but you never know what’s going to happen. The title isn’t won in Janaury, so for us, it’s just another week and just another match — which, obviously, means more of that gut wrenching anxiety I talked about earlier. Someone remind me again why watch this game…