We are back for round two of Premier League action, and we face Crystal Palace away. Last week Palace beat Fulham at Craven Cottage 2-0, while we took care of West Ham at Anfield 4-0. Out for us will be the Ox, Lovren, Klavan, and Matip. Palace have a couple injuries as well in Jonathan Williams, Scott Dann, and Wickham. Even though it is early days, getting three points will be massively important for the Reds.
Lineup-wise I see no reason to change from last week, especially with all of our injuries at the back. I say we go with Alisson Becker; Trent, Gomez, VVD, and Robertson; Milner, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
I would expect Palace to do the same, staying with what won them the game last week. Former Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson will most likely stick with his 4-4-2, with a more direct approach. Benteke and Zaha up top are a formidable partnership and they work well with each other because of their complementary characteristics as forwards.
Since Palace will most likely sit tight with a compact 4-4-2 defensive formation and look for moments to attack in transition, we must look for more quality opportunities. And if Palace want to sit back, then I think we should do what we can to make them sit back as far as possible, back to their own goal. This means that we must look for cutbacks as our main source of opportunities. Cutback crosses are effective because it means our player that is about to deliver a cross is extremely close to their goal. When the ball is so close, the opposing team will be worried about protecting their own goal at all costs, and with high numbers.
Sure this may mean that they will have a lot of space should they be able to transition to attack, but they will have to go almost the full length of the field to do so. We should be able to snuff out any counters as long as we have a solid base (ex. 3-2 shape with maybe three defenders and two midfielders). We may need Salah and Mane a bit wider than usual to do this. This may leave Firmino a bit stranded up top so we will need darting runs from the midfield to keep their back four honest and compact. If they stay compact because they are worried about those deep runs, then Salah and Mane should have plenty of space to attack outside.
Because we may have very little chances in transition, (which in my opinion is where we are best) we will need to really take care of the opportunities that we do get. One source for these counter attacks will be from Palace set pieces. When they have a free kick or a corner, we should have our front 3 high and wide, stretching all the way across the pitch by half field. If/when we win the header, our first look should be to look for either of these three, who will then be in prime position to counter with loads of space. Even if we are in an underloaded situation facing four or five defenders, I would still like our chances with our front three.
All in all I will say that we should come out with a victory here. Palace away is no easy game, so it may be a bumpy ride. At the end of the day, however, I say we come out on top 2-1 with a goal from Keita and Salah.