Liverpool v Crystal Palace: Eagles can stay competitive at Anfield
Champions-elect Liverpool know two more triumphs will guarantee the Premier League title. Mark O'Haire analyses the Reds' midweek encounter with Crystal Palace.
Liverpool v Crystal Palace Wednesday June 24, 20:15 Sky Sports
Liverpool held in Merseyside derby
Liverpool need five points to guarantee a first top-flight title triumph since 1990 after returning to Premier League action with a low-key goalless draw against Everton in Sunday night's Merseyside derby. After 106 days out of action, Jurgen Klopp's charges understandably failed to find their overpowering best at Goodison Park.
The point earned - Liverpool certainly did not deserve more - means the celebratory champagne has been put back on ice with goalkeeper Alisson preventing the Reds from sliding to a second league defeat of the season. The Brazilian stopper produced a fine late save to secure a share of the spoils with Klopp's troops offering little in the final-third.
Star forward Mohamed Salah was only fit enough for the bench while left-back Andy Robertson was unavailable through injury. Both were missed as Liverpool saw plenty of the ball but struggled to seriously test the Toffees. The Reds now face further concerns over James Milner, who sustained a hamstring injury, and Joel Matip who also limped off.
Crystal Palace eye Europe
Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic declared European football "is possible" next season after helping his side to a comfortable 2-0 victory over basement battlers Bournemouth on Saturday night. The cushy victory moved Roy Hodgson's side into the top-half of the table, leaving the Eagles just four points adrift of fifth and Europa League qualification.
Any suggestions the capital club would be 'on the beach' with little to play for were quickly dismissed by the Palace players who took the lead when Milivojevic curled in a 12th-minute free-kick before Jordan Ayew swept home a second after 23 minutes. The Eagles then saw out the victory in comfort as Bournemouth failed to mount any sort of serious challenge.
Victory was Palace's fourth success on the spin leaving Hodgson a happy man post-match. The former England boss said, "We've had four wins in a row which is something I've never had in the Premier League with any of my clubs before and four clean sheets." The buoyant Eagles head to Anfield without injured Martin Kelly, Jeffrey Schlupp and James Tomkins.
Reds' relentless Anfield record
Liverpool have taken top honours in each of the past five fixtures against Crystal Palace but the Merseysiders will be wary of the Eagles having suffered three defeats in their most recent five head-to-heads at Anfield. Indeed, the visitors have proven a tough nut to crack for the Reds, suffering just two defeats in 13 by more than a single-goal margin since 2013.
Liverpool1.25 have returned a 100% winning home record in the Premier League thus far this season (W15-D0-L0) while the hosts have dropped just 16 points from a possible 159 at Anfield since the start of 2017/18 (W44-D9-L0). Curiously, Crystal Palace were the last time to pierce the walls of what has become an impenetrable fortress, back in April 2017.
Palace16.00 picked up where they left off before the enforced break by extending their Premier League winning streak to four. The Eagles have produced their best work against the bottom-half this term (W10-D5-L3), collecting 0.58 points per-game (W1-D4-L7) against the league's elite. The guests have W3-D3-L10 at Big Six clubs under Roy Hodgson's watch.
Eagles may keep Merseysiders in-check
Liverpool have tended to be reliable operators for goals-based selections at Anfield. A healthy 23/34 (68%) encounters here since the start of last season have beaten the Over 2.5 Goals1.72 line with 16 (47%) even breaking the Over 3.5 Goals barrier. However, the Reds weren't at their marauding best on Sunday and may take time to find their top range.
Crystal Palace have shipped two or more goals in 12 of their last 16 trips to the Big Six - 12 (75%) of which also saw Over 2.5 Goals land with 10/16 (63%) matches producing four or more goals. There's a temptation to follow a similar approach on Wednesday but with the Eagles likely to sit-in, opposing a high-scoring home victory could be the way forward.
The underdogs are 1.70 with a +2 start on the Asian Handicap, a selection that collects should Palace win, draw or lose by a solitary strike. Defeat by exactly two goals will return a push with a Liverpool triumph by three or more goals the only way in which our stake is lost. Palace have lost just 4/52 (8%) away days by three or more goals under Hodgson's watch.