Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
- Goals: Sadio Mane (£12.2m), Roberto Firmino (£9.4m) | Wilfried Zaha (£6.6m)
- Assists: Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) | Andros Townsend (£5.6m)
- Bonus: Firmino x3, Mane x2, Robertson x1
The flags came off in Fantasy Premier League on Saturday afternoon but the concerns about Mohamed Salah (£12.2m) and Andrew Robertson‘s (£7.0m) niggling ankle injuries remain.
Both players were doubts for the match against Crystal Palace on Saturday having had disrupted training programmes over the international break, with their recurring issues pre-dating the November hiatus.
The pair made the trip to Selhurst Park but only Robertson was named in the Liverpool starting XI, with Salah an unused substitute – although the Egyptian was about to be thrown on just before the Reds grabbed their winner.
Speaking after full-time, Jurgen Klopp said of Salah’s fitness:
All good. Mo couldn’t train for nine days; he was with the Egyptian national team, went home and trained kind of 60,70 per cent the day before yesterday [Thursday].
Yesterday [Friday] was the first time 100 per cent, so we had then to make the decision: do we start him or not.
We didn’t start him, we wanted to bring him on as you probably saw but then we scored. So, we could rest him today, that’s really good. Wednesday, he will be back.
It’s almost two months on since the Egypt international first damaged his ankle (the Gameweek 8 win over Leicester City) and the week-to-week uncertainty, coupled with Sadio Mane‘s (£12.2m) red-hot form, has proven too much for many Fantasy managers.
Salah has lost over one million owners since the October international break and he is now by some distance the least-popular £10.0m+ midfield asset, sitting in just 23.2% of FPL squads.
Those who have kept hold of him will perhaps be encouraged by Klopp’s declaration that he will feature against Napoli on Wednesday and indeed by the German’s comments last week that the ankle injury isn’t getting any worse.
However, the fact that the problem persists is a worry. So too is the fact that fixture congestion is about to begin in earnest and that Liverpool next face a trio of Premier League fixtures in eight days, with three successive starts for Salah perhaps a tall order given the underlying issues.
Then again, there must be a degree of rotation risk even amongst Klopp’s fit and firing squad members given what happened in the early-December triple-header last season.
For Robertson, the fact that he completed 90 minutes against Palace must be a positive.
The Scot again compensated for the loss of a clean sheet with an attacking return, banking his fifth assist of the season when setting up Mane early in the second half.
The left-back’s post-game comments suggested that his own ankle is still as bothersome as Salah’s, however.
It is still painful but, you know, it is something that I gave time for it to improve. Keeping it moving will help it. Hopefully, in time, it will be better.
I was desperate to play and the gaffer asked me if I was OK. I believed I was and luckily I got through the game. Me and Mo were in the same position. Mo was desperate to play as well and the manager made the decision. Mo was fine and accepted it.
Liverpool’s defensive assets are still heavily reliant on their attacking contributions as clean sheets continue to prove elusive.
The fact that the Reds have conceded exactly one goal in 11 league matches this season suggests a degree of bad luck, while the short-term fixtures ahead certainly give owners of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.2m) and co hope of some long-awaited shut-out points.
Still, the underlying stats suggest a regression from last season and Palace’s goal on Saturday didn’t exactly come out of the blue, with Jordan Ayew (£5.1m) and Wilfried Zaha (£6.6m) wasting excellent chances either side of the Ivory Coast international’s equaliser.
James Tomkins (£5.0m) had an earlier effort chalked off by VAR, too.
Klopp said after full-time:
Crystal Palace doesn’t need a lot of situations to stay in the game. We gave them much too many today because we were not compact enough, so we had the challenges in the wrong areas. It means we block them but it was always a set-piece, it was always a corner, always this kind of thing. That helped them more than us.
At the other end, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£6.2m) delivered a fairly unconvincing performance in a wide-left role, improving slightly when he changed flanks midway through his 63-minute run-out.
Mane had himself not looked at his best on the right wing but was back in the groove after the flank-swap, firing narrowly wide minutes before opening the scoring with a slightly scruffy effort.
Roberto Firmino‘s (£9.4m) six-week-long FPL drought ended at Selhurst Park, meanwhile, with the Brazilian prodding in Liverpool’s winner after a spot of penalty box pinball.
While the Reds were far from their best on Saturday, the good news for owners of Liverpool assets is that their upcoming four fixtures are among the best in the division.
So too are Crystal Palace’s.
After their recent tricky run, the Eagles shoot to the top of our Season Ticker from now until New Year’s Day.
A trip to Turf Moor won’t be easy but thereafter Palace face seven teams who are all currently in the bottom half.
Palace’s defence has traditionally been stronger than their attack and those Fantasy managers who have hung on to Martin Kelly (£4.1m) throughout his recent spell on the bench may well have a cut-price route into the Eagles’ backline.
Joel Ward (£4.5m), who made a quicker-than-expected recovery from a groin injury to feature in Gameweek 13, picked up a fresh knock on Saturday, being replaced by Kelly at right-back for the second match in a row.
Speaking after the game, Roy Hodgson said:
Yes, I’m worried because it was a knee-to-knee clash near the touchline but I can’t enlighten you for obvious reasons. He will have to be assessed and that probably won’t take place until Monday now. He will be having a total examination of the knee injury that he has got then and we will find the extent of it.
If it’s going to be an injury that takes a period of time it’s one we can ill afford because as everybody here knows that is an area of the squad where we don’t have as much back-up as we do, for example, in the midfield area.
While Palace have shipped ten goals in the last five Gameweeks, the quality of opposition has to be factored in.
Their three clean sheets this season have come against Norwich, Everton and Aston Villa, and it’s this type of opposition that Palace will be seeing a lot of throughout December.
As we discussed earlier, the Eagles were certainly a threat at the other end.
Hodgson said of his side’s display:
It’s the usual close but no cigar! I would go further than saying one of our best games of the season, I thought it was our best performance of the season. I thought we really did play well. We were very pleased at half-time with the team’s performance and that carried on into the second half.
It’s bitter blow after getting what we thought was a deserved equaliser to have to concede that second goal from the unfortunate corner-kick and take away that point that we thought we were more than worth. It’s football, we have to learn to live with that, there’s nothing I can say about it but I do honestly believe that was a very good team performance and on another day, would have got us that point – with luck, even more.
Ayew – a starter in each of the last 11 Gameweeks – may be tempting many Fantasy managers as a budget third striker but Christian Benteke‘s (£5.7m) bright cameo at Selhurst on Saturday is something to consider, with the much-maligned Belgian making an impact off the bench.
Andros Townsend‘s (£5.6m) performance was similarly positive, although Hodgson did say after the game that his hit-and-miss winger was nursing an ongoing injury and perhaps hinted at a rest or two throughout December.
Zaha is arguably the most interesting proposition.
After the early-season dip in levels following yet another aborted move away from South London, his form has improved steadily over the past few weeks.
FPL returns have been missing from the winger’s game for much of the season but on Saturday he broke his goal duck for the campaign, producing a superb feint and finish to briefly level the match.
The fixture swing is coinciding nicely with his upturn in form and it’ll be interesting to see if he can build on Saturday’s strike, with his output last season (21 attacking returns) proving that he does have the ability to rack up the goals and assists even in this limited Palace side.
Hodgson said of his talismanic midfielder:
Today he was very good, today he was certainly back to – in my opinion – his best form. I’ve not seen him play games against top-level opposition much better than he did today. That gives me great heart and hope for the future because we believe in him. He’s not just loved by the fans, he’s loved by the players and the coaching staff as well because we know what he can do.
But he also needs to understand, which he does, that it’s a big responsibility and we are all looking for him to give these sort of performances and to score the goal that he did score. I know he’s very disappointed he didn’t make it two because that was a really good chance he got at the end from Townsend’s wonderful through-ball.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Guaita; Ward (Kelly 70′), Tomkins, Cahill, van Aanholt; Milivojevic, Kouyate (Schlupp 72′), McArthur; Townsend, Zaha, Ayew (Benteke 76′).
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson (Milner 79′); Oxlade-Chamblerlain (Origi 64′), Mane, Firmino (Gomez 89′).
Gameweek 13 – FPL Match Reports
- West Ham United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
- Arsenal 2-2 Southampton
- AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Leicester City
- Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
- Everton 0-2 Norwich City
- Watford 0-3 Burnley
- Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
- Sheffield United 3-3 Manchester United
- Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United
Nominated for ‘Best in Fantasy Football – Editorial’ at the Football Content Awards 2020
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