Apr 23, 2017 at 4.30pm UK at ​Anfield
Attendance: 53,086
Crystal Palace
Coutinho (24')
Grujic (89')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Benteke (43', 74')
Milivojevic (60'), Benteke (90')

Preview: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace

Sports Mole previews Sunday afternoon's Premier League meeting between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield.

Liverpool have a chance to strengthen their hold on a place in the top four of the Premier League this weekend when welcoming lowly Crystal Palace to Anfield.

Both sides have seen their fortunes take a turn for the better in recent weeks, heading into Sunday's showdown on Merseyside as two of the most in-form teams in the division.


Jurgen Klopp smiles at a disinterested Sam Allardyce ahead of the game between Sunderland and Liverpool on December 30, 2015© Getty Images

As one of just two sides in the current top six to play this weekend, along with fatigued Europa League semi-finalists Manchester United, the Reds can take another step towards nailing down a spot in next term's Champions League.

While there remains an underlying feeling of disappointment around Anfield, with Liverpool right in the title race and on track for silverware in both domestic cup competitions just a few months back, there is no doubt that finishing fourth would still constitute a good first full campaign at the club for Jurgen Klopp.

A disastrous run of results around the turn of the year can be blamed for a failure to add silverware to their collection, when winning only one of their first 10 games of 2017 to crash out of the EFL Cup and FA Cup in the space of a few days, but they still remain on course for just a second top-four finish in seven years.

Liverpool are no longer one of the supposed dominant forces in the English game, as evidenced by their league finishes over the previous decade, which averages out at fifth place over the past nine seasons. Earning Champions League football was always likely to be the first task for Klopp - then comes challenging for the title.

Following that dire set of results in the opening two months of the year, Liverpool have since managed to bounce back by collecting 17 points from the last 21 on offer, kickstarting their campaign with a convincing 3-1 win over fellow European chasers Arsenal at the start of last month.

Only Tottenham Hotspur have collected more points during that timeframe, with weekend opponents Palace also near the top end of the form table, though perhaps it would have been different had - in the words of Klopp - the Reds not suffered so many injury issues this term.

As things stand, the Merseyside outfit have nine players on the sidelines nursing injuries both short term and long - including a trio of centre-backs - which is three more than the next side in the list.

That has not stopped the Reds from building some momentum of late, though, passing big away tests at Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion in successive weeks to find themselves six points ahead of closest rivals Man United after playing two games more.

Liverpool's fate is essentially therefore in the hands of other sides, but at this point in the season - with just one month left to play - Klopp will simply be happy to have the points on the board. Having already accumulated six points more than the entirety of last term, the ex-Borussia Dortmund chief can be more than happy with the way things are panning out in the league.

Recent form in Premier League: WDWDWW

Crystal Palace

Christian Benteke celebrates during the Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Southampton on December 3, 2016© SilverHub

If challenging for the top four was the goal for Liverpool, it is a little more difficult to ascertain what exactly Palace's aim for the season was. After finishing a respectable 11th, 10th and 15th in their three seasons back at this level, there appeared to be more emphasis on altering the style of play at Selhurst Park.

That gamble ultimately backfired, costing Alan Pardew his job following a shocking set of results that spanned the course of the calendar year, and in came survival expert Sam Allardyce on Christmas Eve to stop the dramatic slide down the division.

Allardyce, fresh off the back of losing his dream job with the England national side, failed to work his magic in the early weeks of his Palace tenure, winning just one of his first eight games at the helm.

Any fears of relegation have since been eased thanks to a major upturn in fortunes, however, seeing them win five and draw one of their last seven outings to move up to 15th in the table and now seven clear of the dropzone with a game in hand to play.

Most impressive of all, Palace have managed to overcome Chelsea and Arsenal during that aforementioned run, providing hope of pulling off a similar scalp this weekend when taking on another team competing in a division of their own near the top.

The victories may have been seen as somewhat of a bonus, but those triumphs over Chelsea and Arsenal came at just the right time, as the Eagles are still to face Manchester City, Man United, Tottenham Hotspur and indeed Liverpool in the final month of the campaign.

If the past two months are anything to go by then the South London club should be just fine, however, having managed to get far more out of Christian Benteke up top and utilised the pace and power of their fellow talented attackers.

Benteke returns to Anfield looking for a fourth goal in three visits there as an opposition player, rightly being picked out by his former manager Klopp as one to watch after hitting the scoring trail since returning from the recent international break.

Recent form in Premier League: WWWLWD

Team News

Joe Gomez of Liverpool FC looks to pass the ball during the international friendly match between Adelaide United and Liverpool FC at Adelaide Oval on July 20, 2015© Getty Images

As alluded to a little earlier, Liverpool could be without a trio of central-defensive options this weekend as Lucas Leiva, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan are all nursing injuries, taking their potential list of absentees to nine players.

Should all three miss out, Joe Gomez will likely partner Dejan Lovren in the heart of the Reds' backline - his first start since September 2015 against Man United when, ironically, Benteke scored Liverpool's only goal in their defeat at Old Trafford.

There are also concerns over the fitness of Roberto Firmino, who has even more weight on his shoulders due to the long-term absence of Sadio Mane, but the Brazilian is expected to start in a side that could show limited changes from last time out.

In terms of the visitors, Allardyce will be without Liverpool loanee Mamadou Sakho on Sunday afternoon - a major loss, with the Frenchman keeping four clean sheets in his seven outings for the Eagles since joining in January.

Loic Remy, James McArthur and Jeffrey Schlupp all return to the Palace squad, however, while James Tomkins is in contention to start in defence.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Gomez, Milner; Wijnaldum, Leiva, Can; Firmino, Origi, Coutinho

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Hennessey; Ward, Kelly, Tomkins, Van Aanholt; Cabaye, Milivojevic; Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend; Benteke

Head To Head

Liverpool have won each of the last two league meetings between these two sides, having previously gone four games without a win - one draw and three losses.

Palace have tasted victory on their previous two trips to Anfield, however, and could become the first side since Chelsea in October 2005 to make it three in a row in the Premier League.

Eagles boss Allardyce has never won a top-flight match at this venue, drawing three and losing 10, with Old Trafford the only ground he has lost as many times at in his managerial career to date.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Liverpool 2-1 Crystal Palace

Two of the division's better sides facing off, in terms of results over the past two months, should make for an entertaining afternoon on Merseyside. Palace have a decent recent record at Anfield and could make some history this weekend, but the Reds - minus a string of first-team stars - appear to have found their groove and are on course to finish inside the top four.

Who will win Sunday's Premier League meeting between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield?

Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace
A hooded Jurgen Klopp looking shifty during the Premier League game between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool on April 16, 2017
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