Two big ones on the bounce for Liverpool send us into this game against Crystal Palace feeling positive. It’s just as well that we’ve been able to put both Stoke and West Brom to the sword, as a Sam Allardyce team isn’t what you want to be up against if you’re feeling vulnerable from long-balls and the like. It wasn’t just the result against the Baggies that was good, but the performance, too. Klopp’s weird hybrid formation worked a treat and the lads weren’t afraid to dog it when they needed to. We probably should have won more comfortably, when you take Milner’s chance, the offside goal and Moreno’s shot at an open goal into account.
West Brom, on the other hand, created very little. They produced one good save from Mignolet but otherwise failed to put us under the sort of pressure that you’d expect from a Tony Pulis team of groks. It was a much more impressive all-round performance than our win over Stoke, when power from the bench helped us to show our class when we needed it. So what sort of thing can we expect from the lads on Sunday? What team will Klopp be putting out? What does the form of both teams tell us about what might happen? Most importantly of all, what bets should you be looking to place?
This season feels like one where it’s been about injuries more than anything else. It’s no surprise that the most successful club in the division at this point in the campaign has had the least injuries, especially at the back. It’s equally unsurprising that as soon as Chelsea have been unable to field the same XI week-in, week-out they’ve begun dropping points. If you said to me we could go back to the start of the season and Liverpool could have Chelsea’s fitness record and they’d have ours, I think we’d be looking at the Reds as title favourites right now.
Alas, we won’t be able to make that swap any time soon. Instead, we’re left with a Liverpool side that has been absolutely decimated by injuries. In his press conference on Thursday the manager confirmed that Jordan Henderson is still no nearer returning to training, admitting the frustration for both himself and the player. He also said that Joel Matip and Lucas Leiva haven’t trained all week because of muscle injuries. That isn’t a massive surprise, considering the referee allowed West Brom to kick seven shades out of them at the Hawthorns.
With Ragnar Klavan still out it’s looking like it will be yet another makeshift defence for us at the weekend. Klopp mentioned Joe Gomez in his press conference, so don’t be surprised to see the former Charlton youngster thrown in at the deep-end. If It’s true that Klavan, Matip and Lucas are all out then I’m not sure the manager’s got an awful lot of choice. I think he’ll be desperate to get Matip on the pitch at the very least rather than throw Gomez in, but it seems like a race against time. The XI I think we’ll be left with is: Mignolet – Clyne – Gomez – Lovren – Milner – Can – Wijnaldum – Coutinho – Firmino – Origi – Sturridge.
The most obvious absence from the Palace line-up will be Mamadou Sakho. The Frenchman broke too many rules too many times to be welcomed back to Anfield any time soon, but there’s no question that he’s been playing really well for the Eagles. As Klopp said in the press conference, he’s good in a deep defence like Allardyce tends to favour. It goes without saying, then, that we’re better off that he’s unable to play against us as part of his loan agreement. It means that Palace’s defence will be that bit weaker and with Scott Dann also out they’re unable to cover for Sakho’s absence by brining him in instead.
Other than at the back, however, things are pretty good for Sam Allardyce. Pape Souaré remains out due to the car crash he was in in September, whilst Connor Wickham is likely to be out until the summer with a knee injury. Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke are, according to Klopp, ‘the most exciting attacking trio in the league’. That’s obviously not true, but they’re working well together and they’re all fit and firing, which is not good against a makeshift defence. With the exception of Sakho, therefore, I’d expect them to field the same side that drew 2-2 with Leicester last time out.
After one hell of a rough January, Liverpool stuttered and stumbled through February before kicking back to life in March. Thus far April has gone well for us, with the Reds picking up ten points out of a possible twelve. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we’re the form team in the land, with Spurs unbeaten in all competitions since the middle of February, but we’re not in a bad position all things considered. We’ve lost just one league game at Anfield all season, but what might cause a slight degree of concern is the fact that that was against Swansea and we’ve drawn with Bournemouth and West Ham at home.
If Liverpool have a shout for being one of the form teams in the country then Crystal Palace definitely do. The Eagles are in a rich vein of form right now, having won six of their last seven games, with one draw thrown in their for good measure. The fact that one of those wins came at Stamford Bridge and the other came against Arsenal at Selhurst Park should cause Jürgen Klopp and his team at least a touch of alarm. Prior to that run, though, they lost 4-0 at home to a miserable Sunderland team and 1-0 away to Stoke. They’re playing well right now, but they can be got at.
I’m genuinely intrigued to see which way this match is going to go. On the one hand we’re at home and playing well, on the other Palace have got wins against Arsenal and Chelsea in recent weeks and won’t be coming here to roll over. Here are my main betting tips:
Benteke To Score
There’s always a horrible narrative to be played out when former players come back to Anfield, yet it feels even more likely to sting us this weekend. News that we’ll almost certainly be without Matip, Lucas and Klavan and that the Belgian will be going up against Joe Gomez doesn’t fill me with hope that I’m wrong, either. Our former number nine has notched up twelve goals so far this season and he’s so strong in the air that I can see him getting another on Sunday. Benteke is 3/1 to Score Anytime and do that weird ear cupping thing that is his celebration, so I’d be looking to go big on that if I were you.
Firmino To Continue His Scoring Streak
Roberto Firmino was absolutely sensational against West Brom. It’s always tricky to appreciate a player’s performance when you’re nervous about the game, yet I can’t say I was overly surprised to see after the full-time whistle that our Brazilian frontman won 100% of his tackles, created five chances, won two aerial duels and, of course, scored the winning goal. That came on the back of his Goal of the Season contender against Stoke the weekend before, so will he be able to continue his impressive scoring streak? I think he will, the only problem is that the bookies do too. Firmino is 11/8 to Score Anytime, which isn’t huge value. You might prefer to bet on him scoring first as it’s 4/1 for Firmino to Open the Scoring; less likely, but that’s why you win more if it happens.
A Score Draw Looking Likely?
I rarely, if ever, opt for correct score tips when it comes to this betting preview piece. That’s because it’s so difficult to correctly predict how any one game is going to turn out when it comes to the team that wins it, let alone when you include such variables as the amount of goals scored. That said, I have a feeling it’s going to be a score draw this weekend. If you forced me to be specific then I’d opt for 2-2 Correct Score, which is 20/1. I like to try to play the odds a little bit more than that, though, and it’s 5/1 for Both Teams To Score & Draw, which feels less specific.
I’m really hoping that Joel Matip makes a recovery in time to start on Sunday and that Jürgen Klopp’s been playing games with Allardyce when he says he might start Joe Gomez. If that’s not the case, however, then I don’t see a scenario in which our former number nine doesn’t score. For that reason my first tip is to lump on the 3/1 for Benteke to Score Anytime. Given that we’ve drawn 2-2 with both West Ham and Bournemouth at Anfield this season & I’d put Palace in their bracket, I think 5/1 for the Draw with Both Teams Scoring looks very long indeed, so that’s my second tip. I hope I’m wrong on both counts…