Prior to the beginning of the season, most experts had Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool tapped as the most likely challenger Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Pep Guardiola’s squad absolutely breezed their way to the league title last season, with Liverpool finishing fourth behind Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
While City were nearly impeccable last term, Liverpool were essentially the only side to give them any issues. The Reds were victorious in 3 of the 4 head-to-head meetings between the sides last year, including a two-leg victory in the quarterfinal round of the UEFA Champions League. The lone City victory came in a match in which Sadio Mane was given a straight red card early in the first half. Without Mane, Liverpool would go on to lose at the Etihad 5-0.
The Reds looked the part in their first match of the new campaign. Liverpool bagged 4 goals without conceding in the opener at Anfield against West Ham, officially putting the rest of the English top flight on notice. This team is for real.
Liverpool will take their show on the road for their second match of the new season on Monday night when they head to South London to take on Crystal Palace. Palace are flying high themselves after securing an impressive 2-0 victory in their first match against an upstart Fulham side. Jeffrey Schlupp got things started in the first half with his first goal for the club, while Wilfried Zaha supplied the second to seal the victory late in the second 45 minutes. Zaha, who just inked a contract extension to stay at the club, will certainly be key if the Eagles are to avoid relegation again this season.
Selhurst Park hasn’t been kind to Liverpool over the years despite the fact that Crystal Palace haven’t finished in the top-half of the league table since 2015. The most infamous clash came late in the 2013-14 campaign when Palace played Liverpool to a 3-3 draw that effectively dashed the Reds’ league title hopes. However, the Reds have emerged victorious in each of their last 3 trips to Palace’s home ground.
As for the injury situations, Liverpool will still be without central defender Dejan Lovren. The Croatian international came down with a mysterious abdominal injury just ahead of the opener against West Ham, and he is set to miss his second straight match. We also know Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be out for the duration of the campaign after suffering a devastating knee injury late last season.
On the bright side, both Joel Matip and Fabinho should be available for selection. Matip reportedly passed a fitness test in the middle of the week, though he will likely be relegated to the bench as Joe Gomez will presumably reprise his role starting in the middle of the defense alongside Virgil van Dijk. Fabinho was held on the bench for the entirety of the West Ham match, but there’s a chance the former Monaco man features in the starting XI if Klopp so chooses.
With Liverpool having performed so well against West Ham, however, Klopp may decide not to change anything at all. Georginio Wijnaldum played quite well in the central part of the midfield in Fabinho’s absence, so the Brazilian may have his work cut out for him if he is to crack the starting side. It will also be interesting to see what happens with captain Jordan Henderson. Klopp wanted to give Henderson additional time off after the player helped England to a deep run at the World Cup, but Henderson returned more quickly than expected. James Milner was also excellent in the season opener, but if Henderson were to start it would presumably be at Milner’s expense.
The most notable absence for Crystal Palace in this match will be defender Scott Dann, who remains sidelined due to a knee problem. Connor Wickham and new man Max Meyer are also both in doubt, though Meyer in particular has a chance to land on the bench, if nothing else.
Neither team has any players suspended for this match, either.
Since Klopp took over at Liverpool in October of 2015, no Premier League side has been involved in more goals. The Reds have scored 221 goals and conceded 120 during Klopp’s time in England. Additionally, no team has scored at least 4 goals in as many games as Liverpool’s 22 during that span. Klopp has built arguably the most formidable attacking outfit in Europe centered around Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. The loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona last January did nothing to hamper the side’s effectiveness going forward. The addition of Naby Keita will also infuse the side with more creativity, particularly in the counter attack.
Fortifying the defense was clearly a priority for Liverpool over the last year or so, and they’ve done that well with the signings of van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker. A leaky defense has thwarted Liverpool constantly since Klopp took over, but keeping the ball out of their own net may now actually prove to be a strength. In fact, Liverpool haven’t conceded a goal in the league at Anfield since February of last season.
Winning on the road is no small feat in the Premier League, particularly under the bright lights of “Monday Night Football.” Palace do have enough talent to give Liverpool problems. Chief among those is former Reds striker Christian Benteke. The Belgian has bagged 6 goals in 9 league matches against his former club, which is more than he has scored against any other side in England.
The match has been slapped with an implied total of 3 goals. We know Liverpool are capable of topping that themselves, and I’m still not ready to crown the defense just yet. I’m going to need to see more before I start to buy into the notion that this is one of the more sturdy defensive sides in England. I think we’ll see plenty of scoring in this one, which has me leaning toward hitting the over on 3.
Liverpool matches will be tabbed with high totals all year long as long as they remain healthy. This game is no different, but I don’t think the total is high enough. Give me the over on 3 goals in Liverpool-Crystal Palace.
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