After seeing their momentum briefly halted by back-to-back defeats to Burnley and Newcastle, Crystal Palace appear to be back on track after beating West Bromwich Albion 5-1 at the Hawthorns.
The Eagles held Jose Mourinho’s high-flying Tottenham Hotspur to a draw at Selhurst Park, before repeating the same feat against West Ham United at the London Stadium last time out.
But, with an impending clash with league leaders Liverpool only a matter of hours away on Saturday, Roy Hodgson will be under no illusion of the scale of the task ahead.
Christian Benteke will serve his one-match ban today after he was sent off in Wednesday’s draw at West Ham, while Hodgson confirmed Wayne Hennessey, Nathan Ferguson, Martin Kelly, Mamadou Sakho and Connor Wickham remain unavailable for selection, although Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne and Jeffrey Schlupp have worked their way back to fitness.
Cahill is one player in particular who should be in contention to start, having been rested for the midweek fixture. The veteran 35-year-old centre-back, who earns wages worth £65,000-per-week, missed the first four Premier League games of the season due to injury, but Hodgson has slowly started to bring him back into the fold, with the defender starting the past three games in a row.
But with the prospect of facing Jurgen Klopp’s formidable front three consisting of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane – who have already scored 18 goals in the division so far this season – Cahill’s high levels of concentration are surely needed.
Palace’s left-sided defensive duo of Patrick van Aanholt and Scott Dann were stretched thin by West Ham with the pair failing to record a single tackle between them, and adding some stability to the backline could help to disrupt the supply chain for the front three.
Once hailed as an “exceptional” beast by the Palace boss, Cahill’s ability to read the game and block the ball – he averaged one block and 4.4 clearances per game in the Premier League last season – could prove vital to their chances of stopping Liverpool from dictating play and dominating possession.
Dropping Dann – who had a nightmare against the Hammers – and bringing the former Chelsea defender back into the starting line-up could be key to pulling off one of the upsets of the season at the weekend.