Given the Reds’ inability to ‘win ugly’ at times this season, their frailty against so-called weaker opposition and, clearly, the absence of a key trio in Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana, Liverpool’s 1-0 win at West Brom last time out was a real marker that this now is a team with real ambition.
A trip to the Hawthorns without three of your best players is an opportunity to roll over and have your tummy tickled, for the weak to flounder and get found out. But the eleven players that pulled on a red shirt last Sunday stood up to be counted, dominating a physical West Brom side in all areas and coming away with a much deserved three points thanks to Roberto Firmino’s header on the stroke of half time.
We were subject to a bombardment of direct balls into our penalty area as the Baggies sought an equaliser, but the Reds stood firm and even won the midfield battle thanks to a fantastic performance from Lucas, Gigi Wijnaldum and the improving Emre Can.
It was the complete team performance; an area that Liverpool have been found wanting in at times this term.
It’s possible that six more points will confirm a Champions League spot and ten more points will secure third place; a fine return from Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge. An outstanding opportunity to claim three of those points presents itself this week, with Crystal Palace the visitors.
The Eagles are flying high at present, but injuries/absentees at the back – Scott Dann and James Tomkins are currently battling injury, while Mamadou Sakho can’t play as part of the terms of his loan – offer the Reds a fantastic chance to extend the gap to the two Manchester sides nipping at our heels.
Liverpool Team News
It’s a case of same old, same old on the injury front for Liverpool. Sadio Mane is out for the season, while Adam Lallana is back in training but according to reports has ‘no chance’ of featuring on Sunday.
As for Jordan Henderson, there is no obvious timescale for his return, says Klopp.
Ragnar Klavan missed the West Brom game with a knee injury, and while he is back to fitness it is unlikely that he will usurp Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren at centre half; both of whom were excellent against the Baggies. Indeed, Klopp will enjoy the luxury of naming an unchanged side on Sunday.
Crystal Palace Form
The jury was out for a long time concerning Sam Allardyce at Crystal Palace, but now it is very much in after a run of five wins in seven outings.
That run includes victories over Chelsea and Arsenal, so the Eagles certainly won’t have any fear ahead of the Anfield trip.
That said, they were lucky to take a point from their clash with Leicester last time out when Christian Benteke used Robert Huth as a step ladder to nod home – inexplicably missed by the referee, while they lost their last away game 1-3 at Southampton.
With three key defensive talents potentially missing, a huge opportunity awaits Liverpool on Sunday.
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace Betting Tips
It was only natural that Liverpool fans were worried how their side would fare without the attacking talents of Mane and Lallana, and happily – as you would hope – those left in their wake have really stepped up to the plate.
Phil Coutinho is back somewhere near his best after injury and illness, while Divock Origi offers pace and a directness that enables the Reds to play higher up the pitch thanks to his ability to recycle possession in the final third.
But the improvement in Roberto Firmino’s game has been tangible; he seems to enjoy being the focal point of this starting eleven. With, potentially, three key Palace defenders missing this game, the Brazilian should enjoy his afternoon’s work once again.
So how will this game play out? We expect Liverpool to enjoy lots of possession; Sam Allardyce is a smart man, and he will look to protect his patched up back four by packing the midfield and making it difficult for the Reds to break them down. His main attacking outlet will be Wilfried Zaha breaking at pace down the right hand side.
So can Liverpool break down Palace? We’d like to think so, and the fact that we have scored in 15 of our 16 league games at Anfield this season would back up that sentiment.
And, as excellent as we were at the back against West Brom and how ‘negatively’ we expect Allardyce to set up his side, we’d be surprised if Palace managed to score; even accounting for their excellent recent form.
So how will that manifest itself from a betting perspective? Unfortunately, the bookmakers have Liverpool as short as 1/2 to win this game, so there’s not much money to be made there. So instead, we’re going to take Palace with a +1.25 Asian handicap….if Liverpool win by a single goal, we take home the three points and trouser a profit from our bet!
We’ve spoken about Firmino already and the brilliance of his recent performances. He is 7/5 to score anytime here, and given all the variables mentioned that looks outstanding value.