CHAMPIONS-elect Liverpool host Crystal Palace on Wednesday night in the Premier League. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace | Wednesday 24th June 2020, 20:15 | Sky Sports
Liverpool’s 30-year wait to be crowned English champions will go on just a little bit longer past Wednesday night’s hosting of Crystal Palace following the Reds’ derby stalemate at the weekend.
A draw against Everton was a fair result in a pretty drab contest with little in the way of clear cut opportunities. In fact, had the Toffees front pairing of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin been more clinical, Klopp’s men could have been making the very short trip back across Stanley Park with no points at all.
Sunday’s goalless affair saw little invention from the Liverpool attack, undoubtedly missing Mo Salah’s runs in behind the opposition defence and his precision finishing. Whenever one of the Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino partnership is missing, there’s an almost inevitable drop-off in performance levels and goals from the Reds which will concern Klopp, despite it not being a very new problem.
Divok Origi has scored some crucial goals for the club in the past couple of years but isn’t at the level of the aforementioned triplet and recent signing Takumi Minamino is still trying to find his feet in the Premier League. Whilst they will no doubt get over the line in the next couple of weeks, it seems as if Liverpool are stuttering rather than cruising over it with so many points in the bank.
Wednesday’s opponents Crystal Palace, managed by former Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson, are enjoying a great season. The Eagles have surpassed everyone’s expectations by sitting ninth in the table, despite ranking low on nearly every data metric and scoring just 28 goals in their 30 league matches.
A rigid structure and well organised defence has left a fair few teams struggling to break down the south Londoners, just as did Bournemouth found on Saturday evening. The flat back four is a common theme and Hodgson has been able to rotate between a five and four-man midfield depending on the upcoming fixture.
The 70-year-old coach has gotten the best out of players that many had thought were past their best at the top level, including the likes of Gary Cahill and Andre Ayew – the latter who has now scored in three successive matches.
Ayew, a bargain £2.5m signing from Swansea, is playing off Christian Benteke’s hold up play brilliantly and causing lots of problems with his direct running, as is Africain counterpart Wilfred Zaha on the opposite flank.
Whether European football next season is a realistic prospect remains to be seen, particularly with a tough run of games coming up to end the season, but Palace fans would be rejoicing even if they end up finishing mid-table and rightly so.
The betting angles
Looking ahead to this game and I’m expecting a stubborn showing from Roy’s boys, even if they ultimately end up leaving empty handed. Liverpool to win, Under 4 Goals and Under 5 Cards is 11/10 with Bet365’s bet builder and is worth a one point play in my book.
It gives us more interest than the general 1/4 on the home side to win by getting a goal marker Palace so frequently meet on side. Having only bagged 28 times themselves, it’s little surprise to see that Palace games have averaged just two goals per match across the campaign with seven of their eight games against this season’s top seven seeing under four goals.
On the card front, I don’t see this being a particularly hostile fixture. Martin Atkinson takes the whistle and is one of the more lenient officials in the Premier League, averaging three cards per game (CPG) in 2019-20 – sitting 18th of 21 Premier League referees to take charge this season in the CPG table.
To add to this, Atkinson has given less than five cards in his last 12 games in charge and the 11/10 therefore looks increasingly like value.
When the two sides met in November, they shared just the single card between them in a 2-1 victory for Liverpool and both teams sit in the bottom six for cards received in the league since August, an attestation of their relatively disciplined defences.
A couple of prop plays that take interest are on a player that is one of the first on the team sheet – full-back Trent Alexander Arnold. The young England international, who takes most free-kicks in-and-around the 18-yard box, is 21/5 at the time of writing to have two or more shots from outside the box with PokerStars.
Fellow WeLoveBetting writer Tom Love followed the same angle with some success in the weekend game with Everton and with generous prices on offer for the second match running, it’s hard to resist going in again given the stats and the way this game could pan out.
Alexander-Arnold has had 12 shots in his last six matches, 11 of which have come from outside the box and with the Anfield club’s attacking players seemingly finding it much harder to find the net and games becoming tighter as a result, it’s falling on Trent and his defensive or midfield teammates to have a pop to find an alternative way through opposition.
That 21/5 could well drop before kick-off but I’d certainly take anything above 2/1 for some value. Palace, despite avoiding cards more often that not, do concede 11 free-kicks per game on average – the sixth-highest in the top flight – so Alexander-Arnold could have a chance or two if any of those fouls give Liverpool a dead-ball situation from shooting range.
Ultimately, Liverpool should have too much for Palace for the sixth time in succession but it may not be as easy as the initial outright odds suggest with the Reds just thankful at this stage for any three points they can get – no matter how they come.
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace – Liverpool to Win, Under 4 Goals and Under 5 Cards (11/10 Bet365)
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace – Trent Alexander-Arnold 2+ Shots From Outside the Box (21/5 PokerStars)