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Jun 24, 2020 at 8.15pm UK
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Preview: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Premier League clash between champions-elect Liverpool and Crystal Palace, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Liverpool could take another step towards a first title since 1990 when they welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield for their first behind-closed-doors home game since lockdown.

The Reds returned to action with a goalless draw against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday to leave themselves five points away from glory, and take on a Palace side in flying form and with their sights set on European qualification.

Match preview

The act of getting over the line and mathematically securing a first top-flight crown in 30 years has taken longer than expected for Liverpool - most significantly due to the coronavirus stoppage but then also due to their stalemate with Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

Victory in that match would have meant that another win on Wednesday would seal the deal - as it is, they must rely on Manchester City to slip up if they are to win the title before they visit their closest challengers at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday, July 2.

Such is their lead at the top of the table that nerves are very unlikely to have a chance of creeping in, but Jurgen Klopp will still want to get things wrapped up as soon as possible.

The final eight games of the campaign will not change the destination of the title, but they could define Liverpool's standing in the argument of the Premier League's greatest-ever sides and, after a season of unprecedented dominance and relentlessness, it would be a disappointment of sorts not to end it in style.

Drawing at Goodison is not necessarily a bad result by any stretch of the imagination, and it has been a common occurrence in derbies there despite Liverpool now enjoying a 22-match unbeaten run against their local rivals.

However, any dropped points stand out in a season where Liverpool have failed to win only three league games, so their current run of just one win in five games across all competitions suggests that there is something Klopp needs to fix.

Indeed, Liverpool have now dropped more points in their last three league games than they did in their previous 38, while their last three top-flight wins have all been narrow ones by a solitary goal.

One element the champions-elect certainly do not need to fix is their home form; they have won every single one of their 15 league games at Anfield this season, boasting the best home attack and best home defence in the process.

Looking even further back than this term, Liverpool's home winning streak stands at a top-flight record 22, while their unbeaten run at Anfield is 55 games stretching all the way back to April 2017 - more than three years ago.

Crystal Palace were the team to inflict that defeat, incidentally, and as the last visiting club to win a league game at Anfield they may be boosted even more by the fact that Liverpool will not be roared on by the home crowd this time around.

The Eagles arrive on Merseyside in fine form too; Saturday's 2-0 triumph at Bournemouth saw them win four games in a row without conceding for the first time in their top-flight history.

It is also the longest ongoing winning run in the Premier League and was enough to lift Palace up to ninth in the table, above Arsenal and level on points with last season's Champions League runners-up Tottenham Hotspur.

The possibility of Palace appearing in Europe themselves next season cannot be discounted considering they are now only two points adrift of seventh place and four behind fifth - which as things stand would be enough for Champions League football.

Former Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has set his sights on steering the club to their highest-ever points total in the Premier League era, which is a mark they are currently seven short of.

Palace will likely need to surpass that by some distance if they are to be in Europe next term - their 49-point haul last season was only good enough for 12th, while when they got the same number of points in the inaugural Premier League season they finished bottom of the table and were relegated.

The Eagles face a tricky end to the campaign too, with six of the eight teams above them in the table still to come during their final eight games.

Liverpool away is the hardest of the lot, though, so if Hodgson can come away with anything from his old stomping ground on Wednesday then there is no reason why they couldn't pull off a few more shocks between now and the end of the season.

Liverpool Premier League form: WWWLWD
Liverpool form (all competitions): WLLWLD

Crystal Palace Premier League form: LLWWWW

Team News

Liverpool were without both Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson for the derby - the former staying on the bench throughout and the latter missing out entirely.

Both are in contention to feature in this game, although with such a quick turnaround and Man City next up after this match Klopp is unlikely to take any risks over their fitness.

Salah's spot on the bench throughout Sunday's match suggests that he is ready to be called upon if he is needed, whereas Robertson is a little further away from full fitness.

The importance of the Scot's absence was heightened by his replacement James Milner limping off before half time against Everton, while there was further defensive concern when Joel Matip also went off with an injury.

Milner is expected to miss this game while Matip is also a doubt, meaning that Joe Gomez could be forced to left-back again with Dejan Lovren starting alongside Virgil van Dijk should Robertson miss out.

Xherdan Shaqiri is closing in on a return to training but is not expected back for this match, while Nathaniel Clyne remains a long-term absentee.

Palace, meanwhile, will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and former Liverpool man Martin Kelly through injury.

Hodgson's side did not pick up any fresh concerns against Bournemouth, though, and barring any rotation through resting players, could name an unchanged side for this one.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Gomez; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Guaita; Ward, Dann, Cahill, Van Aanholt; Kouyate, Milivojevic, McArthur; Ayew, Benteke, Zaha

We say: Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace

There is a perception that Palace are something of a bogey team for Liverpool, having inflicted the most recent Premier League defeat on them at Anfield and all but ended their title hopes in the 'Crystanbul' match of 2014.

However, Liverpool have won the last four meetings and six of the last seven, and we expect them to continue that run on their first game back at Anfield since March despite Palace's admirable form heading into the contest.

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