Liverpool need to win to make sure of Champions League qualification, but Kevin Hatchard believes they'll be given a tricky test by their old boss Roy Hodgson...
"Liverpool's home form has been poor for months, and all of the pressure is on their shoulders of the hosts as they chase the Champions League. The Reds may well win this, but Palace can give them a test."
Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Sunday 23 May, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports
Reds on the brink of rescuing their season
After a season of ups, downs, chaos and calamity, Liverpool may be about to end on a high. Of course, having to snatch a Champions League place on the final day of the campaign would've been an unthinkable prospect at the start of the season, but a combination of fatigue, injuries and poor form left the Reds needing snookers going into the final few weeks of the schedule.
Champions tend to find a way to win when the odds are against them, and Liverpool have done just that. A four-match winning streak, a run that included a 95th-minute winner from goalkeeper Alisson against West Brom and an impressive victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, has lifted Jürgen Klopp's men above Leicester City with one round of matches left. One final win over Crystal Palace will ensure that the Merseyside giants return to European football's elite competition.
However, this may not be the open goal that the table suggests it will be. Liverpool have won just two of their last 11 Premier League home matches, and if you look at that pair of victories, Aston Villa were only beaten with a last-gasp Trent Alexander-Arnold strike, and there were shaky moments against Southampton.
Liverpool's injury list is still incredibly long, with seven senior pros all definitely sidelined. Diogo Jota is a doubt, while Gini Wijnaldum is expected to start in midfield, as he makes what is likely to be his final appearance for the club. Given that he has won the Premier League, the Champions League and the Club World Cup as a Reds player, it's fair to say the Dutchman will be remembered favourably by the Anfield faithful.
Hodgson leaves beloved Eagles in good shape
As he ambles into the sunset, Roy Hodgson can reflect upon a successful spell with the team he supported as a boy growing up in Croydon. When he took over, he had to sift through the wreckage of Frank de Boer's shockingly brief spell in charge, and he has kept Crystal Palace out of danger in the shark tank that is the Premier League. Hodgson had trials as a player with the Eagles, and started his coaching career as the boss of local team Park Hill United's Under-11 side. Crystal Palace is his club, and this part of south London is his corner of the world.
And yet, it is Hodgson's adventures beyond south London that have defined him as a manager. He racked up six league titles in Sweden, led Switzerland to third in the FIFA rankings, guided Inter Milan and improbably Fulham to UEFA Cup finals, and managed his country. His tenure with England came to a painful and ignominious end, and there's an irony that what could be his final game as a manager will be against the club with which he perhaps suffered the hardest fall.
He arrived at Liverpool at a time when transfer funds were scarce, and when the Reds had all of the expectation without the quality of squad to back it up. Hodgson would admit he made mistakes at Anfield, and it's shame that the pressure perhaps brought out his more spiky side, especially with the press.
Palace have been free of relegation pressure for several games now, but they have won two of their last four games, and they pushed Arsenal hard in midweek before conceding two last-gasp goals in a 3-1 defeat. On the road, Hodgson's side is the picture of inconsistency, with three wins, four defeats and a draw across the last eight away games.
Dazzling talent Eberechi Eze is sadly out for the long term after damaging an Achilles tendon, while Christian Benteke is carrying a knock and may not be risked, with Euro 2020 around the corner for him and Belgium. Luka Milivojevic could return after the missing the loss against Arsenal for personal reasons.
Liverpool to win, but it might be tight
There's always a lot of talk about motivation ahead of the final weekend, but it seems to be that Liverpool's price of 1.182/11 in the Match Odds market is too short. Palace will be keen to avenge the 7-0 defeat they suffered in the reverse fixture, and they'll want to give Hodgson a good send-off. While Liverpool clearly have a defined goal to aim for, they also therefore have all of the pressure on their shoulders.
I can see Liverpool getting the win they need, but I'm not totally convinced that Palace will just roll over. You can back the visitors +2.0 & +2.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.845/6, and with that bet you only lose if the visitors go down by three goals or more.
Salah to steal the show?
It's not beyond the realms of possibility that Palace could make life tough for Liverpool, but that Mohamed Salah could still ultimately get the hosts the result they need. The Egyptian has scored in three of his last five appearances, and he is level with Harry Kane at the top of the Premier League top scorers' chart. Kane faces a trip to Leicester, and Salah is the 1.715/7 favourite in the Top Goalscorer market.
I'll actually back him to be the WhoScored Man of the Match at 4.03/1 on the Sportsbook. Salah has an average rating on the website of 7.07, and has scored in six of his last ten appearances. Liverpool have to go for the win, and even though I don't think Palace will be smashed here, Salah could be the one to make the difference.
Kevin Hatchard 2020/21 English Football P/L
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