How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Crystal Palace

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2013

How Liverpool Will Line Up Against Crystal Palace

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    Liverpool are without the suspended Lucas Leiva on Saturday.
    Liverpool are without the suspended Lucas Leiva on Saturday.Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Liverpool welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield on Saturday for the first time since 2005.

    Manager Brendan Rodgers is without ever-present midfielder Lucas Leiva after the Brazilian incredibly collected his fifth yellow card of the season in the 3-1 victory at Sunderland last Sunday.

    Rodgers must decide who will line up alongside Steven Gerrard in Lucas' absence and whether to stick with the 3-4-1-2 formation he has used in the last two outings since Luis Suarez's return.

    There's also the question of whether vice captain Daniel Agger will return from injury in defence.

Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet

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    He's our keeper, our Belgian keeper, he's Simon Mignolet
    He's our keeper, our Belgian keeper, he's Simon MignoletMatthew Lewis/Getty Images

    An easy one to begin with. The Belgian has performed admirably since replacing Pepe Reina in the Reds goal this season and produced a string of superb saves.

    While his distribution may not—yet—be of the quality of Reina's, his shot-stopping has shown why Brendan Rodgers was happy to spend £9 million on him in the summer.

Right Centre-Back: Kolo Toure

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    The Eyes Have it: Kolo is a big fans favourite at Anfield
    The Eyes Have it: Kolo is a big fans favourite at AnfieldLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    The likeable Ivorian has become a firm fan favourite at Anfield and will be an easy choice for manager Brendan Rodgers.

    Since the introduction of three at the back, Toure has been effective as he is comfortable on the ball and when he has not been asked to get forward as a full-back in the disappointing defeat to Southampton at Anfield.

Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Brendan Rodgers could be tempted to bring back in his vice captain Daniel Agger after injury, in which case Skrtel would be the one to step aside if so.

    However, the Liverpool boss has shown he will keep players in the team based upon merit. Skrtel has forced his way into the manager's plans since his man-of-the-match performance against Man United at the start of September, starting all three games since then.

    Continuity in defence is important, so Skrtel should get the nod against Palace.

    Having said that, Rodgers could be tempted to play Agger for his ball-playing qualities in defence against a team that Liverpool will be looking to dominate.

Left Centre-Back: Mamadou Sakho

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The Frenchman is beginning to show why Liverpool paid around £16 million for his services after a shaky start on his debut at Swansea.

    An easy choice for Brendan Rodgers in defence, Sakho brings composure (he has an average pass completion rate of 91 percent in his three games at Liverpool), strength and aerial ability to the back four.

Right Midfield: Raheem Sterling

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Due to Lucas' suspension, Jordan Henderson is the only player I can see who can move to centre midfield alongside Steven Gerrard, therefore leaving the right midfield/right wing-back role available.

    This is probably the trickiest position to predict this weekend based upon Sterling having been introduced here in the latter stages at Sunderland.

    Martin Kelly came on as the right wing-back against Man United at Old Trafford but looked exhausted after 10 minutes. I'm not so sure asking a player to play his first game in 13 months in a physically demanding role such as wing-back is wise.

    Sterling's pace could also profit against Crystal Palace's full-backs.

    It's worth noting that against Sunderland, Henderson, playing in this position, was in fact the third-highest player up the pitch based on average positions:

    #LFC average positions v Sunderland. Interesting that Henderson 3rd highest up pitch, & how SG/VM in same spaces.

    — Matt Ladson (@mattladson) October 2, 2013

    I'd expect a similar shape, with Sterling higher up and Kolo Toure covering as more orthodox right-back.

Left Midfield: Jose Enrique

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Enrique is a solid choice for this position as his defensive weaknesses are less exposed and he is given the freedom to join the attack more frequently.

    His strength and speed are well-utilised going forward.

    With Aly Cissokho injured, there is little competition for this area at present.

    Henry Jackson writes at This Is Anfield fan website that perhaps Enrique, a full-back known for his attacking qualities more than his defensive ability, should be offering more:

    For a player respected more for his attacking qualities than his defensive work, his statistics aren’t exactly groundbreaking to say the least. Two goals and eight assists in 78 appearances are not good figures by a more defensive left-backs standards, but for one whose defending is his weakness it’s even worse.

    Food for thought. And perhaps once Cissokho is back available, Enrique will find his place in threat.

Centre Midfield: Steven Gerrard

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The skipper is again an ever present, having started every Premier League game and the two Carling Cup fixtures this season.

    He isn't the energetic Steven Gerrard of old, but his passing qualities bring so much to the team. Take his 50-yard pass to Daniel Sturridge at Sunderland that resulted in Luis Suarez's first goal.

    It would be nice if Brendan Rodgers had the luxury to rest his captain from time to time, but he has very few options in midfield.

Centre Midfield: Jordan Henderson

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    I wrote about the reasons why Henderson has earned his opportunity in centre midfield and hopefully Lucas' suspension allows this to happen.

    A B/R poll shows 91 per cent of you agreed that Henderson deserved a chance in centre midfield.

    Rodgers is limited with centre midfielders at present—a result of failing to strengthen that area in the transfer window and Joe Allen being out with injury—so it's difficult to see anything other than Henderson alongside Gerrard in the middle.

    Luis Alberto is the only other option here.

Attacking Midfielder: Victor Moses

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Perhaps the central role isn't Moses' most comfortable, but he has been effective in it at both Old Trafford and the Stadium of Light.

    The on-loan Chelsea attacker is a versatile player who brings pace and dribbling to the side. He has started to connect and build an understanding with the front two of Suarez and Sturridge. The trio could cause huge problems for Palace's defence.

    Moses will be expected to put pressure on Palace holding midfielder Mile Jedinak.

Forward: Daniel Sturridge

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Suarez's return has taken some of the pressure off Sturridge to provide the goals, and the two of them linked up expertly at Sunderland.

    With one goal and two assists in his last match, Sturridge is a man in form.

    Sturridge has been the one of the two to most drift out to the right side in their two games together this season.

Forward: Luis Suarez

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    Gareth Copley/Getty Images

    This will be Suarez's first appearance at Anfield since his 10-match suspension and flirtation with Real Madrid this summer.

    His performances at Man United and Sunderland since his return will ensure he receives a warm welcome back, and the Uruguayan will be looking to add to his double last week.

    "Once you have two strikers working in tandem, though, the dynamics completely change and doubts begin to creep into defenders’ minds."

    -- Robbie Fowler on Suarez and Sturridge, in the Daily Mail

Starting XI

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    Via EplIndex
    Via EplIndex

    This XI would mean just one change from the team against Sunderland. That being enforced due to Lucas' suspension.

    Steven Gerrard would play a little deeper than usual, allowing Henderson to press and energise the midfield.