We are finally back to Premier League action this Saturday, with our next opponents being Crystal Palace. We currently sit at third although Tottenham could jump us if they win because we have played an extra game. United have also played a game less while being two points ahead. The status of Robertson, Lovren, Can, and Clyne are still questionable (although Robertson may be good to go). Joe Gomez also recently picked up a knock so he may be a doubt as well. Only seven games remain in the league so we will need to do all we can to secure a UCL place.
As far as Crystal Palace goes, we can expect the typical 4-4-2 from them, which seems to be the perfect fit for for this squad. They will have several key players hurt, but they will be at home as well, where they can give any team trouble. They very rarely out possess opponents but they are a threat on the counter.
For our lineup I think we should go with Karius; Robertson, VVD, Matip, Trent A-A; Lallana, Henderson, Milner; Mane, Firmino, and finally Salah. Since we will most likely encounter a team that will sit back a bit, a player line Lallana will be helpful to help unlock those types of defenses with his guile.
For this game, our vertical compactness will be key when we have the ball. Remaining close to each other in possession will help us win the ball back if we lose it, and help sniff out any Crystal Palace counters, which is their strength in attack. In a more attacking sense, it means that players like Lallana and Firmino, who excel in these tight areas, will have to join either winger on the side to help advance the ball in close quarters. Dropping down and playing towards our midfield line will mean that the Palace defenders will have no one to cover. If they notice that Lallana, Firmino, and whoever else is having an easy time advancing down the half-space and wing channels, then they may overcommit and try to help out on that side of the field, being sucked in. This is where we can then play Henderson from a deeper position, and he can then play our winger is making a run in the space left by the Palace defenders, starting his run from the far half-space. Like I mentioned, remaining vertically compact and having the type of players who excel in these spaces is necessary.
Defensively, I will go back to the vertical compactness when we have the ball. Since we will most likely see Crystal Palace defend somewhat deep in their own half, we must remain close to each other in possession so that we can immediately win the ball back when we lose it. Since we will be in our attacking half when this happens, We can help cut out any counters from the source and keep the ball in our attacking half, assuring that we may never have to truly be an an organized defense phase deep in our own half for the majority of the game (obviously we will not be able to keep it that way for the entirety of it).
Overall I see a 2-1 victory for the Reds. Palace will scare us a bit but we will come our victorious.