9 min: Two chances for Liverpool! Elliott danced past a couple of defenders on the edge of the area and drove a low shot that would have gone in but for Andersen’s excellent block. Moments later, Nunez volleyed over from a tight angle at the far post.
6 min Palace’s 5-4-1 formation already looks like morphing into 9-0-1. I don’t suppose Palace fans would appreciate the juxtaposition of 9 and 0 during a game at Anfield.
5 min Liverpool have made a lively start. Salah gets away from Mitchell on the right and plays the ball back to Elliott, whose shot from the edge of the area is blocked by Andersen.
3 min “Matip and Konate are injured, and Gomez is still regaining match fitness?!” sniffs Peter Oh. “That is not good news for Liverpool’s defence. Good thing Klopp was able to find a Phillips, er, screwdriver in the toolbox to try to tamp down the Palace attack.”
2 min Milner caught Guaita in his follow through after slicing that shot over the bar – I think he stamped on his shin – and there’s a break in play wihile Guaita receives treatment.
1 min: Chance for Milner! The old man almost gives Liverpool the lead after 55 seconds. Alexander-Arnold’s dangerous cross was punched away by Guaita, under pressure from Nunez. Milner pinched the loose ball from Ayew, just outside the penalty area, then slapped a left-foot shot over the bar.
1 min Peep peep! Palace get the game under way.
Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match interview
The players stroll onto the field, all wearing their gamefaces. It looks a bit gloomy on Merseyside, with something called ‘rain’ in the air.
“Nunez has looked very good so far,” says Brendan Large. “Is this the new first-choice front three for Liverpool?”
“I have a bad feeling about this (from a Liverpool standpoint),” says Niall Mullen. “And, looking at the other contenders, it feels that if the Reds don’t make a challenge we could just send the First Division trophy over to the Etihad before August is out.”
I expected Liverpool to make a terrifyingly fast start, as they did the last time they lost the title to City on the last day of the previous season. I still think they will, despite last week’s minor fiasco. They’re going to win 12-0 next Monday, we already know that.
Patrick Vieira’s pre-match thoughts
Thirty years ago today, the Premier League got under way. For richer and poorer, it has dominated our lives ever since. The most famous images have been everywhere in the last few days, so our picture editors went looking for something a little more offbeat. And they’ve found some rare gems.
“I’m in your old stomping ground of that there London and hope to avoid walking in to a Palace supporters’ pub while wearing my dual King Kenny/Ken Dodd tribute gear,” says Ian Copestake. “Is best to have a tickling stick to defuse any liveliness.”
Patrick Vieira starts without a recognised centre-forward tonight. But he may soon have a new toy to play with.
Some interesting selections on both sides. Jurgen Klopp has left out Jordan Henderson, with Harvey Elliott and James Milner preferred in midfield. Nat Phillips, who played so many games in the 2020-21, starts at centre-back. Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate are injured, while Joe Gomez is only fit enough for the bench. And the record signing Darwin Nunez starts up front.
It looks like Patrick Vieira has switched to a back five, with Joel Ward replacing Odsonne Edouard. That’s the only change from the Palace team that lost to Arsenal ten days ago.
Liverpool (4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, van Dijk, Robertson; Elliott, Fabinho, Milner; Salah, Nunez, Diaz.
Substitutes: Adrian, Gomez, Tsimikas, Bajcetic, van den Berg, Keita, Henderson, Carvalho, Clark.
Crystal Palace (possible 5-4-1) Guaita; Clyne, Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Ayew, Doucoure, Schlupp, Eze; Zaha.
Substitutes: Johnstone, Richards, Milivojevic, Olise, Hughes, Ebiowei, Plange, Mateta, Edouard.
Referee Paul Tierney.
The fixture computer can be a sick twist all right. Crystal Palace, aiming to build on a fine first season under Patrick Vieira, have been given the toughest start of any team in the Premier League: an opening game against New Arsenal last week, then Liverpool tonight and Manchester City at the end of August. Sure they also have a winnable match at home to Villa on Saturday, but can we please not dwell on that. I’m trying to sell a narrative here!
Point is, nobody gives Palace much chance tonight. If you’re into the whole betting thing, you can get 16/1 on a Palace victory and 6/1 on a draw. Since they had the effrontery to win three consecutive games at Anfield between 2015-17, Palace have lost ten in a row, home and away, against Liverpool.
This fixture looked formidable even before Liverpool started the season with a sloppy, sluggish 2-2 draw at Fulham. A performance like that has consequences. The Liverpool players have had nine days of listening to the people who doubt their commitment to another season of heavy-metal football. The backlash begins at 8pm.