Liverpool face Crystal Palace on their return to Anfield after 3 months for the first home game of the season this Saturday.
Last weekend’s six-goal thriller with Watford encapsulated what Liverpool are all about, as they looked impressive in attacking transitions but suspect defensively to deny themselves a fifth successive opening game victory.
The Reds did better on Tuesday night though when they beat Hoffenheim 2-1 in the first-leg of the Champions League play-off thanks to a superb free-kick from 18-year-old right-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold. A deflected cross from James Milner saw another away goal for the Reds with the help of Havard Nordtveit.
Despite a poor campaign in the second-half of last season, finishing in the top four for just the second time in eight seasons to bring European football back to Anfield meant that the campaign was a success, although there is still work to be done in next week’s return fixture against the German side before Champions League nights at Anfield become a regular occurrence.
For now though, all focus switches back to the Premier League – something that will become a regular occurrence in the coming months if Liverpool do succeed in their mission of qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League, the demands of which Jürgen Klopp needs little reminding of.
Despite bringing in three additions to the squad over the summer, new faces are required if the Reds are to sustain their challenge for silverware on four fronts. Incoming arrivals appear thin on the ground at the moment with talks of the two main summer targets, Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keïta, going quiet of late.
Klopp still needs to do what he can to keep hold of Philippe Coutinho but he also needs to ensure that the defence is strengthened before the window closes at the end of the month, no-one knows which he will prioritise.
Crystal Palace had a terrible opening weekend with a 3-0 loss against newly-promoted Huddersfield and it will have given Frank de Boer plenty to think about ahead of the trip to Liverpool. It may just take the Eagles time to adjust to De Boer’s methods, but they also need to integrate some new faces into the fold, including loanees Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
The second half of the season saw Liverpool loan out Mamadou Sakho to Palace, and the defender helped the Eagles avoid relegation and it might be a good idea if De Boer bites the bullet to sign him permanently as Sakho is still not on good terms with Klopp.
Liverpool are still without Coutinho, who is ruled out with a back injury, and Adam Lallana after the two picked up injuries at the end of pre-season. The good news for Reds fans is that Daniel Sturridge is available for Saturday’s fixture after recovering from a minor injury he sustained against Bayern Munich in pre-season.
Klopp could stick with the same side for the third consecutive match, meaning Milner, Dominic Solanke, Andy Robertson and Divock Origi could have to watch on from the bench.
Crystal Palace will start Christian Benteke who will look to build on his record of scoring five times in three visits to Anfield as an opposition player – he hasn’t scored more at any other venue.
Wilfried Zaha is set to miss out on the fixture but Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur both were involved with the Under-23s side in the week and could become part of De Boer’s first-team plans.
Liverpool haven’t beaten Palace at Anfield since October 2013 and always tend to struggle against the Eagles. However, they are on the back of a battling victory over Hoffenheim in midweek so their confidence may be high enough to help them secure the three points and put them back on track in the Premier League.
Goals are a certainty in this fixture as both teams have scored in the last ten encounters in all competitions, but it will be a test for Liverpool’s back four.
I’m going to go for a 3-2 win for the home team, Liverpool are back on home soil and need a solid performance to set them for their second-leg against Hoffenheim on Wednesday.
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