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    Liverpool vs Crystal Palace Match Preview


    Liverpool will be hoping to continue their rejuvenation under new boss Jurgen Klopp when they take on a Crystal Palace side that have stuttered in recent weeks after an impressive start to the season. Klopp's team will be looking to win for the fourth match in succession following victories over Bournemouth, Chelsea and Rubin Kazan but will have to overcome painful memories of recent encounters against Sunday's visitors if they are to continue their excellent run.

    Last weekend's impressive 3-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge highlighted how much Liverpool have progressed under Klopp in such a short space of time. Their previous four performances had seen an increased work rate and a willingness to press the opposition after losing the ball, therefore being less susceptible on the counter-attack by winning possession back more quickly. This, in effect, has helped to lessen the burden faced by the Liverpool back four and has made the Reds a much tougher team to beat. All that had been lacking prior to last weekend was the imagination and cutting edge in the final third of the pitch.

    The performance against Chelsea was the most complete performance under Klopp, with an end product to match the industry. Most importantly, it marked the return to form of Philippe Coutinho, who proved the difference between the teams with two moments of brilliance that turned the match in Liverpool's favour. The Brazilian hadn't scored since the opening weekend of the season but caused the Chelsea back-four all sorts of problems by constantly finding pockets of space, and delivered the end product that had been eluding him in recent weeks. It is vital that the Brazilian maintains his excellent form against a well-drilled Palace back four, which have the fifth best defensive record in the Premier League this season.



    Equally important to the club's fortunes is the return to fitness of Christian Benteke, with Divock Origi failing to score in 11 matches for club and country this season. Benteke's worth has been evident for all to see with his goals against Norwich and Chelsea and his fitness will be boosted by the 90 minutes he managed for the first time in eight weeks in Thursday night's win over Rubin Kazan. Benteke scored the winning goal for Aston Villa against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last season, so has fond memories of playing against Sunday's opposition.

    Klopp will also be buoyed by the "Plan B" that Liverpool successfully deployed in last week's victory against Chelsea, with Roberto Firmino being used as a "false 9" as part of a front-three that also included Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho. With an extra man dropping back into midfield, Liverpool managed to dominate possession against Chelsea and may even decide to follow suit on Sunday if Christian Benteke is unable to complete 90 minutes.

    Opponents Palace come into the match without a win in four matches in all competitions, although they can count themselves unfortunate not to have taken all three points against Manchester United last weekend, creating and missing a whole host of chances before having to settle for a goalless draw. It followed a 5-1 thrashing by Manchester City in the Capital One Cup and league defeats to high-flying West Ham United and Leicester City. The Eagles traditionally fare well against the bigger teams, having beaten Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge in August and only succumbing to a 90th minute winner against Manchester City at the Etihad a week later.



    Much of Crystal Palace's success against Manchester United came down both wings, with the pace and trickery of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie causing Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo all sorts of problems. Liverpool, like most sides in modern-day football, are more used to facing teams whose build-up play is more measured, with opponents playing between the lines in order to find space. This aspect of Crystal Palace's play is a throwback to years gone by and has been a pivotal reason for their success since returning to the top flight in 2013.

    Liverpool will need to cut off the delivery to both Zaha and Bolasie as often as possible, who will constantly be offering themselves as an outlet. They should be well-equipped to cope with the threat, with James Milner, Lucas Leiva and Emre Can all having defensive instincts in midfield, but it may curb the home side's own attacking threat, with Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno unable to go forward as frequently as they would like. It is also vital that Liverpool stay concentrated at all times, as they will be facing a barrage of deliveries into the box throughout the afternoon.

    It isn't just on the flanks that Crystal Palace are dangerous, with Yohan Cabaye perhaps one of the biggest coups of the summer transfer window when he returned to the English game in a £10 million deal. The Frenchman not only possesses vision and an excellent passing range but he has also displayed the defensive qualities this season that are required from the deep-lying midfield role that he has occupied for his new club. His delivery from set-pieces is also one of his strongest assets, so Liverpool will need to be at their best to combat the many threats that he can cause.



    The two clubs have met 22 times in all competitions since the start of the Premier League, with Palace winning just seven times and five of those matches ending in draws. The Eagles have bad memories of playing at Anfield, famously losing 9-0 in 1989 as well as suffering 5-0 defeats in 1992 and 2001 respectively. They have fared much better since returning to the Premier League in 2013, winning two and drawing one of the five encounters between the clubs.

    It was three of those matches against Crystal Palace that were most damaging to the reign of Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool manager. The 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park in May 2014, when his side led 3-0 with 11 minutes remaining, severely dented Liverpool's hopes of winning a first title since 1990. Then in November 2014, a 3-1 away defeat was such a low point in the club's campaign that it prompted Rodgers to change from a 4-3-3 formation to 3-4-2-1, bringing about a change in the club's fortunes. There was also the painful 3-1 defeat at Anfield in May 2015, which was Steven Gerrard's final home game and mathematically ended Liverpool's chances of qualifying for the Champions League.



    Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel and Lucas Leiva are all expected to return to the Liverpool starting 11 after being rested on Thursday night against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League. Daniel Sturridge (knee), Jordan Henderson (metatarsal) and Kolo Toure (hamstring) will not return from injury until after the international break, while Jordan Rossiter (hamstring), Joe Gomez, Danny Ings and Jon Flanagan (all knee) all remain long-term absentees. 

    Dwight Gayle is set to face a late fitness test for Crystal Palace after suffering with a hamstring injury, while Papa Souare is expected to return after recovering from a knock. It is less likely that Connor Wickham and Marouane Chamakh will recover in time from calf and hamstring injuries respectively, with Lee Chung-yong also likely to miss out with a knock.

    Score Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool vs Crystal Palace Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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