A surprise victory against an in-form Liverpool towards the end of last season helped Crystal Palace to Premier League survival.
A Christian Benteke double at Anfield in mid-April cancelled out a Philippe Coutinho goal in what was one of Palace’s best performances under then-manager Sam Allardyce, and the Eagles will hope for a repeat of those exploits when they host the Merseyside club on Saturday afternoon.
Palace’s bid to retain their top-flight status this season was stalled by a seven-game winless run which coincided with an injury crisis that at one point included no fewer than 12 absentees. But with a squad incrementally returning to full fitness and after a hard-fought 2-0 victory at Huddersfield Town prior to the international break, the south Londoners seem the likeliest of the bottom six to remain in the division.
Liverpool, though, will view Saturday’s fixture as an opportunity to seize their place in the top four. Tottenham Hotspur’s visit to Chelsea means the Reds could finish the matchweek five points clear of the Lilywhites in third - while also remaining within distance of Manchester United who are two points above Jurgen Klopp’s side but have a game in hand.
Both sides vastly improved since last meeting
A Sadio Mane goal midway through the second half separated the reverse fixture during matchweek two, but both sides can claim to have made significant enhancements since that game in August.
It was a time when Palace were suffering from an identity crisis under Frank de Boer. The Eagles were far better at Anfield than they were in their 3-0 opening day defeat at home to Huddersfield, but they were still poor and could have lost by far more than the solitary goal.
Roy Hodgson has since replaced De Boer – who lasted just two more league matches – and his ‘back to basics’ approach has guided the Eagles to the brink of an unlikely survival.
Meanwhile, Liverpool deserved their victory against Palace earlier in the season but their reputation for possessing a defence renowned for gifting goals to the opposition almost cost them maximum points. Benteke had an excellent opportunity to earn the Eagles a point but volleyed over from close-range – which perhaps epitomised the season the Belgian has proceeded to have.
However, that eminent feature of Liverpool’s team has somewhat diminished. Andrew Robertson made his debut against Palace and has gone on to have an excellent season at left-back, keeping Alberto Moreno out of the Reds’ team and the Scot is a contender for the club’s Player of the Year award. The addition of Virgil van Dijk has also improved Liverpool’s back four, and the Dutchman has gone on to forge an impressive partnership with Joel Matip.
Palace boss Hodgson has admitted that Wilfried Zaha will face late fitness tests while there are also doubts over James Tomkins and Alexander Sorloth.
Zaha hobbled off in the latter stages of the victory at Huddersfield having started for the first time since damaging knee ligaments on 4 February, while Sorloth missed the game with a groin problem. The pair were forced to withdraw from international duty.
Connor Wickham’s return from his 14-month absence suffered another blow as he also suffered a groin injury having featured twice – and scored – for the club’s under-23 side in recent weeks. Jeffrey Schlupp, Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon are confirmed absentees.
Liverpool will be without Joe Gomez who suffered an ankle injury early in England’s 1-0 victory against the Netherlands last Friday. Emre Can is a doubt having suffered a back injury while playing for Germany, while Dejan Lovren is still recovering from an ankle knock.