After overtaking Tottenham on the top spot of the Premier League table midweek, Liverpool will be hoping to establish their lead as they visit Crystal Palace at lunchtime today
Crystal Palace welcome champions and league leaders, Liverpool to Selhurst Park today for both sides’ final outings before Christmas.
The Eagles have only won one of their last five league games but face a Liverpool team struggling on the road despite their lofty league position.
It has taken far longer than last season, but Liverpool are back out on their own at the top of the Premier League table courtesy of Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over previous leaders Tottenham Hotspur.
The top-of-the-table tussle, which Liverpool dominated in the first half before surviving some glorious Spurs chances in the second, looked destined to end level until Roberto Firmino’s pinpoint stoppage-time header finally opened up some daylight between the two front-runners for the title.
If anything could dampen Jurgen Klopp’s delight at the victory, it would be another Wednesday night to today lunchtime turnaround – a piece of scheduling which led to a furious reaction the last time it happened less than a month ago.
Liverpool drew 1-1 with Brighton & Hove Albion on that occasion – one of five successive away league matches which the champions have failed to win in a run which stretches back almost three months now.
The Reds have not gone six away league games without winning since January 2011 and could draw five in a row for the first time since December 1991, having been held by Everton, Manchester City, Brighton and Fulham since their 7-2 humiliation at the hands of Aston Villa.
Indeed, the discrepancy between Liverpool’s home form and away form is the biggest in the league; they have won seven from seven at Anfield this season in an incredible run which stretches a lot further back than just 2020-21, yet on their travels they have won only one of their six league outings this term.
That away run also stretches further back than just this season, with three wins, four defeats and five draws in their last 12 such outings, having won 16 and lost none of their previous 17 before that.
However, they have won each of their last five league visits to Selhurst Park and have only lost one of their last 13 top-flight trips to London, where their only away win of 2020-21 came too.
Why there is such a gulf between Liverpool’s home and away form is something of a mystery to Klopp, and he will no doubt be wary of a Crystal Palace side that held Spurs to a draw in their last outing at Selhurst Park.
How Palace turns up could be the deciding factor as to whether they could also come away with something from the other member of the top two this weekend, with the hosts having won three, drawn three and lost three of their last nine league games.
That inconsistency is mirrored in their home form – two wins, two draws and two defeats so far – but manager Roy Hodgson can still point to signs of progress ahead of the visit of his former club.
The Eagles are three points and one place better off than the same stage of last season, and crucially have improved upon their biggest weakness from 2019-20 by increasing their goal threat.
It is at the other end where the main issues lie now, with Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw at West Ham United making it 12 games without a clean sheet and just one in their last 21 top-flight outings.
Considering Palace have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their 14 league meetings with Liverpool since earning promotion back to the big time in 2013, Hodgson will know that his team will likely need to score more than once if they are to come away with all three points today.
That makes what the veteran boss described as a “ludicrous” red card for Christian Benteke in midweek even costlier, with the Belgian set to miss out against his former club just as he was beginning to find a bit of form.
Meanwhile, Manchester City make the trip to high-flying Southampton this afternoon on the back of successive draws that have further derailed their Premier League title hopes.
The Citizens are eight points adrift of leaders Liverpool with a game in hand, while Southampton are four points better off in third after a superb start to the campaign.
City seemed to accept a point from their recent derby clash with Manchester United, but there was little to celebrate following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
Guardiola accepted after the game that his side cannot afford to drop points against sides such as West Brom, who still went ahead and sacked boss Slaven Bilic after the match.
City have won back-to-back league games just once all season and are already playing catch up on Liverpool with two thirds of the season to go.
This trip to St Mary’s is not exactly the easiest of matches on the face of it, either, with Southampton in great form at the moment.
Southampton will feel on recent form that they may well be the favourites to win this game and keep their outside title hopes alive.