On Saturday, Crystal Palace welcome Liverpool to Selhurst Park in the first of the Premier League matches this weekend.
With Chelsea hosting Tottenham in the hunt for a Champions League sport and Southampton visiting West Ham, the weekend provides both Palace and Liverpool with promising opportunities to pull away from their rivals.
Both sides secured wins before the international break interrupted the Premier League schedule and will be looking to continue that momentum: Liverpool demolishing Watford 5-0 at Anfield with Mohamed Salah scoring four times as Palace won a crucial clash with Huddersfield thank to goals from James Tomkins and Luka Milivojevic.
A trip to South London will hold bad memories for the Reds as they have only 50% of their visits to Selhurst Park since Crystal Palace returned to top-flight football in 2013, including the infamous 3-3 draw that effectively cost Liverpool the Premier League title.
Klopp is undefeated at Selhurst Park, however, and will be looking to continue Liverpool’s impressive form on the road this season. Hodgson does have reason to be confident though, as he has only lost to Liverpool three times in his managerial career.
1. Can Salah be stopped?
It won’t come as a surprise to see his name featured here. The Egyptian ran riot in Liverpool’s last game, scoring four of his sides five and assisting Roberto Firmino for the other.
He now sits on 28 goals for the season and thanks to Harry Kane’s ankle injury, looks to be the favourite for the golden boot, tumbling records as he goes.
It’ll be the main point of focus for Palace, attempting to stop the flow of Salah. They have good reason to believe they can achieve the seemingly impossible though as in his three appearances against the Eagles he has failed to register a goal or assist.
But with 28 goals and 10 assists in the league this season, Patrick van Aanholt and Mamadou Sakho will certainly have their work cut out for them on the left-hand side of the defence.
2. Organisation in the Palace backline
Keeping Liverpool restricted is no mean feat and only four teams have achieved it this season. But if Palace want any chance of getting a result, then defending well and keeping the reds as restricted as possible has to be their main objective.
Any glimpse of a defensive miscommunication and Liverpool will expose it. Mamadou Sakho may be keen to prove a point to his old Liverpool boss after leaving Anfield last summer on bad terms. Palace have only kept six clean sheets all season long so will most certainly have to keep extremely organised.
They were able to thwart the seemingly unstoppable attack of Manchester City in late December and came within a saved penalty of securing a famous win.
A repeat of the performance seen during the New Years Eve clash could see the Eagles fly soar to victory over Klopp’s men.
3. Will injuries disrupt the reds?
It feels like injuries and international breaks go hand in hand for Liverpool, with the latest batch of fixtures seeing Emre Can and Joe Gomez return with ailments.
In fairness, Can did travel to meet the Germany squad with a pre-existing back problem picked up during the clash with Watford. However, travelling and training has all but exasperated his problem.
It remains to be seen whether or not Klopp will risk the German but, with Champions League quarter-finals on the horizon, it seems like an unnecessary risk.
Liverpool will definitely be without full back Joe Gomez. The English youngster was substituted just seven minutes into the Netherlands game with an ankle problem.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will feature in his absence, whilst Nathaniel Clyne could be named in the squad for the first time this year after finally recovering from a long-term Back injury.
Can and Gomez have featured heavily for the Reds this year, so losing out these two key players could hamper Liverpool’s chances.
4. Wickham could return
A huge potential return for Crystal Palace could occur in the Premier League tie as Connor Wickham could be back for the first time in 18 months.
The English forward hasn’t been seen in a Palace shirt since his cruciate ligament injury back in November 2016.
But his recovery took a huge step forward during the international break as he played 25 minutes for the clubs U23’s during the international break.
Wickham is ready to return to first-team action any time now and could be a massive morale boost to the squad and fans should he feature in this Saturday’s lunchtime clash.
5. Klopp’s lunchtime issues
A lunchtime kick-off on a Saturday immediately following an international break isn’t something that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be too happy about.
His team have been notoriously poor following international breaks since the German took charge in October 2015.
The tie also comes as a double-edged sword for Klopp as it’s been picked for live broadcast so will kick off at 12:30, something that the Liverpool manager still hasn’t mastered and has publicly spoken out about during his stay in England.
Following the previous three international breaks this season, Liverpool have only won once, defeating a lowly Southampton side 3-0 at Anfield.
The Reds can count themselves unfortunate though, as they’ve been given the earliest of kick-offs four times in the last five international breaks.
Jurgen Klopp has only won four of the 13 early starts he’s faced as Liverpool boss, coupled with the post-international break it could spell disaster for the Reds’ Champions League push.
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