Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace
Venue: Anfield Stadium
Kick off: 4PM
While the title race and relegation battle have already been settled in the Premier League, the fight for Champions League football will take centre stage, with Liverpool looking to secure all three points at home to Crystal Palace on the final day of the 2020-21 season.
The Reds and Chelsea have matters in their own hands, unlike Leicester City, and a victory for Jurgen Klopp’s side at Anfield should be enough for them to wrap up a place in the top four.
For the first time in 13 weeks, Liverpool climbed back into the top four after a comfortable 3-0 victory away at Burnley on Wednesday evening.
Roberto Firmino scored his third goal in three games to break the deadlock on the stroke of half time, before Nat Phillips headed in his first goal for the club seven minutes after the break. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then drilled in the third to seal three crucial points for the Reds, boosting their top-four hopes and improving their goal difference heading into the final day.
Klopp has expressed his delight at how his side have turned their fortunes around after such a poor run of form earlier this year. The German believes that the club are “back on track” to qualify for the Champions League and has labelled today’s showdown with Palace as their cup final.
Indeed, the scale of their turnaround has been stark when taking into account their form at the beginning of the year. Since demolishing Palace 7-0 on December 27, the Reds lost eight and drew three of their next 14 Premier League matches, crushing their hopes of retaining the title.
However, Liverpool are currently the league’s inform side after extending their unbeaten run to nine games, winning seven of these in the process.
Liverpool are sure to be full of confidence heading into today’s encounter with Palace, having won each of their last seven top-flight meetings against them by an aggregate score of 22-5.
However, games against teams further down the league table have already cost Liverpool plenty of points throughout this campaign; the Reds have won only six of their 14 matches against the Premier League’s bottom seven teams, albeit Palace currently sit just outside of this group.
Liverpool have won their final league game in each of the last four seasons, their longest run since winning their season finale in 13 consecutive campaigns between 1907-08 and 1923-24.
Klopp’s side will secure Champions League football for next season as long as they match or better Leicester City’s result against Tottenham Hotspur, salvaging something positive from what has been a truly difficult 2020-21 campaign.
After a remarkable managerial career stretching 45 years, boyhood Palace fan Roy Hodgson will oversee his final game on the touchline this afternoon, after four years at the helm.
The former Liverpool boss was given a guard of honour by both sets of players for his final home game in charge of the club on Wednesday evening, with Arsenal running out 3-1 winners at Selhurst Park.
Nicolas Pepe’s 35th-minute opener was cancelled out by a trademark header from Christian Benteke midway through the second half, his fourth goal in as many matches. However, the Eagles were unable to hold on for a point as Gabriel Martinelli bundled in his effort in stoppage time, before Pepe scored his second of the game in the 95th minute to ensure the Gunners left with all three points.
Their encounter at Anfield will be the 12th time the South London club have finished a top-flight campaign away from home, with the Eagles winning just one of these 11 games on the road.
Indeed, Palace have a poor away record against Liverpool, having lost six of their last nine, although they did win three successive games at Anfield between 2015 and 2017.
As little is riding on this fixture for Palace, all eyes will be on Hodgson who will take charge of his 364th Premier League game, overtaking Jose Mourinho into eighth on the all-time list.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, R. Williams, Robertson, Thiago, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Crystal Palace possible XI: Guaita, Ward, Tomkins, Cahill, Van Aanholt, McCarthy, Kouyate, Schlupp, Townsend, Benteke, Zaha.