Talking Points: Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2

Mo Salah’s late goal all snatched three points for Liverpool as they came from behind to win at Selhurst Park. Luka Milivojevic scored from the spot to give the home side an early lead, but a second-half comeback from Jürgen Klopp’s side saw Sadio Mane level proceedings before the Egyptian King won it at the death.

Palace as usual provide stern test that Reds battle through…

You know what, I like the atmosphere that Crystal Palace fans generate, especially at home, but for the sake of Liverpool fans’ blood pressure it would be great if Palace got relegated. Klopp has now won on his last three visits to Selhurst Park, but our games against Palace are just way too stressful and chaotic. It was the worst possible start when a combination of errors and poor decision making between Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip and Loris Karius resulted in Wilfred Zaha being taken out by the German keeper to give the home side an early penalty. For the rest of the first-half Liverpool dominated possession, but were wasteful and pedestrian with it and struggled to create clear chances. Thankfully the man who looked the most likely to make a difference in the first-half, Mane, equalised minutes after the break, and even more thankfully, Benteke showed his form of this season, not his usual form against Liverpool, to squander two glorious opportunities to regain the lead for Palace. The match was a battle, and just as Liverpool seemed to be losing the fight, up stepped Salah late on to score his 29th League goal of the season and claim the win for his side. Many believe that hard-fought victories like these are the most enjoyable, and the ability to win such games is vital, and could well prove useful before the seasons’ close.

Mane with one of the strangest games a footballer could have…

Mane’s ‘bad’ patch, or ‘not so good but not bad because he was still contributing with important goals and assists’ patch is well and truly in the past, with the winger now enjoying a fine run of form. Six goals and two assists in his last seven Liverpool games highlights this, and on Saturday he was involved in all most everything. Mane was first amongst it when he went down looking for a penalty after having his leg clipped. Despite going down later than he should have, the contact was there and it should have been a penalty. Instead, he was booked for diving. Mane then has a goal disallowed for offside, before finally scoring a goal that counted at the start of the second-half. He then goes down believing he had been followed and hence picked the ball up with his hand. Neil Swarbrick gave a free-kick for the handball, doesn’t send Mane off for a second bookable offence. Minutes later Mane was then rightly substituted. It was a rollercoaster of a performance for the Senegalese international, but luckily he provided more good contributions than bad and was on the winning side.

We need to talk about right-back…

He improved slightly in the second-half, but it was evident how much Alexander-Arnold was struggling against the pace, trickery and directness of Zaha all game long. It’s a worrying trend, but the fullback just seems to struggle against good wingers, as we saw when he came up against Marcus Rashford a few weeks back. Trent is still young o course and will learn from such encounters, but it does provide further evidence that his best position and long-term future probably shouldn’t be at fullback, with a midfield role a better fit. It is a weakness of the 4-3-3 system that there isn’t always a natural option to track back and help out a fullback, whereas, with a 4-2-3-1 formation or variation similar, a left or right midfielder can track back easily. It is concerning though, especially given Joe Gomez now being ruled out for a month through injury and crunch games against Man City and Everton coming up. Eyes may now turn to the fitness of Nathaniel Clyne who was back on the bench against Palace. Last season Clyne struggled in attacking positions but is extremely reliable defensively – something Klopp and Liverpool could do with on Wednesday.

Selection dilemmas for Klopp ahead of City showdown…

So yes, right-back could well be a position that Klopp may tinker with for the quarter-final first leg. James Milner or Emre Can if fit could even be possibilities there, though the likelihood is that Alexander-Arnold keeps his place. A key area that may well be affected by Saturday’s performances is the midfield three. A midfield three of Jordan Henderson, Milner and Gini Wijnaldum may be solid, but it provides little creativity and dynamism. Milner was one of the Reds’ better players against Palace and now has nine assists for the season, thus should be a nailed-on starter. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added some much needed positivity of the bench, and with Adam Lallana now injured for the foreseeable future, Ox should also start against City. That leaves the final spot between Henderson and possibly Emre Can if the German recovers in time from a back injury. Elsewhere, choosing between Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren to partner Virgil Van Dijk will also be important. Whatever Klopp decides, the Palace game will have given him plenty to think about.

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