Crystal Palace vs Liverpool preview

Crystal Palace vs Liverpool Preview: Flight of the full-backs

Crystal Palace vs Liverpool always sees goals. The Reds have travelled to Selhurst Park six times in league and cup since Palace returned to the top flight in 2013, and every match has seen both teams score and at least three goals in total. Liverpool have conceded first but gone on to win nine league games under Jürgen Klopp, with two of them being at Palace. Expect drama, expect goals, and expect the full-backs to be heavily involved.

Last weekend was a remarkable one for wide defenders. No, not you, Ruddock, I’m talking about full-backs. Of the 18 players credited with an assist on the opening match week of the new Premier League season, six were full-backs. Not only that, but the only two players to set up two goals were left-backs. Neither Benjamin Mendy nor José Holebas will feature here, but plenty of talented, pacy and creative players will.

Liverpool’s first goal of 2018/19 involved both of their full-backs in the build up. A sharp pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold found new boy Naby Keita. He in turn fed Andrew Robertson, who fired the ball across goal for Mohamed Salah to tap in. It was obviously the first clear-cut chance the young Scot set up this season, but it won’t be the last; Robertson created eight in 2017/18, and Cesar Azpilicueta was the only defender to create more.

Down at Craven Cottage on Saturday, Patrick van Aanholt teed up Jeffrey Schlupp for the opener, before Aaron Wan-Bissaka played in Wilfried Zaha to seal the three points. James Tomkins may have been Palace’s best player in our view, but the aforementioned quartet took the next four spots in our rankings.

Mané of the match?

Liverpool’s top rated player last weekend was Sadio Mané, and indeed he was the only player from either of these sides to make our team of the week. How the battle between the Senegalese forward and Wan-Bissaka unfolds will be crucial to the outcome of this game. Mané scored home and away against Palace last season, and has netted 13 goals in his last 17 Liverpool appearances.

The home side’s main threat will undoubtedly come from Wilfried Zaha. The attacking midfielder has yet to hit double figures for Premier League goals in his career, but after getting off the mark already for 2018/19, it’s a definite possibility this season. Don’t be surprised if Zaha attacks down the left and aims to target the weaker side of Liverpool’s defence.

Both Alexander-Arnold and Gomez are excellent long term prospects, but the former didn’t have a pre-season and the latter is unproven at centre-back. Zaha is eminently capable of winning the ball high up the pitch, as his dashboard from last season illustrates. If he catches Liverpool’s defence off guard, he will cause havoc.

With both teams having won while keeping clean sheets last time out, it’s unlikely Roy Hodgson or Jürgen Klopp will make many changes to their line-ups. Only one of their last six league meetings has seen the sides separated by more than a single goal, and that will likely be the case on Monday night too.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool

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