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Liverpool-Crystal Palace Preview
There have been subtle and clear signs this Liverpool side are different than the one that came up one point short in last term's bid to dethrone Manchester City.
Having gone into the international break with a key victory over the reigning two-time champions, Jurgen Klopp's side look to come out of it with three more points as they face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Liverpool's 3-1 victory over Manchester City at home Nov. 10 was notable for many things, most notably for the Reds (11-1-0) an improved result compared to last term's scoreless draw at Anfield in which they escaped with one point after City missed a penalty. The Merseysiders showed no pity for the Cityzens as they played without their top keeper and a makeshift backline, striking twice inside the first quarter-hour on goals by Fabinho and Mohamed Salah before Sadio Mane added a third shortly after the restart.
The aim for Liverpool is to finish what they could not last season - protect the lead and fend off potential challengers. There was also a psychological boost with the victory as it dropped City nine points behind Liverpool and behind upstart Leicester City and youthful Chelsea.
"You can have the best technical ability but if you aren't ready to show it then you can't make the best of it," Klopp told The Athletic. "It's no different in football than it is in normal life. The first step to achieve whatever you achieve is to think you can do it. You want to do it, you want to achieve it then you have to find a way to go there.
"It's constantly like question and answer, question and answer. Right, not right, trial and error. That's how we do it and in football it's no different. If you are a naturally confident person you take challenges like this. If you are naturally an insecure person then you are pretty much constantly afraid of failing."
One player brimming with confidence ahead of this match is midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, who put a bow on the Netherlands' successful Euro qualifying campaign with a hat trick in their 5-0 pasting of Estonia during the break. Wijnaldum also won the captain's armband as club teammate and compatriot Virgil Van Dijk was allowed to leave the team for personal reasons.
Van Dijk is expected to be in Klopp's first XI, but Salah and left back Andrew Robertson - both of whom missed out on international play due to ankle injuries - are reportedly out per Sky Sports. To fill Robertson's spot, Klopp could drop midfielder James Milner to the back.
Crystal Palace (4-3-5) are comfortably mid-table, entering this match in 12th place on 15 points and hoping to end the paucity of goals ends. The Eagles have scored just 10 goals in league play, better than only Watford (8), and have gone scoreless for 218 minutes since Jordan Ayew's equaliser against Arsenal on Oct. 27.
One of the strikers who has failed to fire for Palace - ex-Liverpool target man Christian Benteke - is reportedly considering a move in the January window to bolster his international prospects with Belgium. He had a brace as the third-place finishers in the World Cup completed a perfect qualifying run with a 6-1 win over Cyprus, but Benteke has scored just four goals in 60 league matches for the Eagles.
"I hope the Cyprus game will give me my confidence back and give me the chance to score for Palace," Benteke told La Derniere Heure according to talkSPORT. "But I also have to think about the January transfer window. I will give it some thought and I'll see what can be done.
"It is important to have playing time for your club, but what you do on national duty is also important. It carries weight and can compensate a little. I was playing for high stakes in the Cyprus game."
This match also ends a brutal stretch of fixtures for Palace, who are facing their fifth consecutive top-five opponent and have taken one point from the previous four. Benteke is one of three former Reds expected to feature for Roy Hodgson along with defenders Mamadou Sakho and Martin Kelly.
While Sellhurst Park was once considered a bogey ground for Liverpool - most famously their 3-3 draw in 2014 in which they were dramatically pegged back after chasing goals to try and pip the title from City - they have reeled off five straight wins there in all competitions.
That includes a hard-earned 2-0 victory last term as Milner converted a penalty just before halftime and Mane secured the points with a goal in second-half stoppage time.
Updated November 21, 2019