The Liverpool View
Q. Let us begin by finding out your views on the game between our two clubs earlier in the season at Selhurst Park?
What a frantic affair that was! A Liverpool supporting friend of mine from Washington DC travelled across the pond for this match and the teams delivered one of the most entertaining games of last fall. I had somewhat high expectations going into that game at Selhurst, since Liverpool were flying high in the league, were playing amazing attacking football and we had the Selhurst hoodoo to break. Numerous previous visits to the home of Palace had been abysmal for us.
That game turned out to be a very telling one of the present day Liverpool – absolutely mesmerizing upfront and equally shambolic at the back. In that encounter, Phillipe Coutinho was particularly phenomenal in attack (not getting on the scoresheet himself, but assisting two goals) and Dejan Lovren was a horror show at the back (allowing both Palace goals to be scored, although mending some of the damage with a beautiful headed goal). I felt deflated but still excited at half time, with the score 2-2, but was very happy the Reds stepped up their performance for the second 45 minutes and got two goals and a vital victory. Definitely among the most nervous yet the most entertaining games we’ve had this season
Q. How has the season been for Liverpool since that game?
Liverpool’s season has been a rollercoaster since that game. Firmly in the title race after it (we were level at the top of the league with Manchester City after the win at Selhurst), still in contention for the league and the cups by Christmas – and then a tragic crash of our aspirations in January. Largely spurned by the absence of our key man, Sadio Mane, who left for the African Cup of Nations.
We lost several league games in a row against what some would describe as inferior opposition (although I personally hate that label), crashed out of both cups and were only left with a top four Champions League spot finish to relish and hope for. We’re still fighting for that spot. Every one of the remaining five games is like a mini cup final and crucially important in our bid to enjoy European nights again at Anfield next season, especially if this happens at the expense of our bitter rivals from the red side of Manchester.
Q. Did the club address all their needs in the January transfer window?
Absolutely not. This is where I could go on a very long rant, in fact. When January came, we were still a few points off the top and reinforcements were vitally needed. Instead of buying talent to mantain our title challenge, we shipped off our best defender, ironically, to you guys. Mamadou Sakho’s loan departure was the ONLY transfer activity Liverpool had in January. Many of us are still angry about the failure to replace Sakho (if, as rumored, his fallout with Jurgen Klopp could not have been fixed) and, even more so, to buy a back-up for Sadio Mane whose imminent absence in January for the AFCON had been known of before we even signed him.
I dont know what the reason was for us not to open our checkbook when our title hopes were alive and kicking, but, to my mind, the failure to add to our squad in January essentially cost us the shot at silverware this season. Well, at the very least, Sakho was put to very good use at your club.
Q. Is Jurgen Klopp starting to make a difference at the club, more so than previous managers who tried but failed?
Oh yeah! We feel that we have finally got a world class manager in Klopp, and, even better, he really loves the club. I toured the United States with Liverpool last summer and witnessed first hand his attitude towards the job which is much bigger to him than just another managerial gig. In his first season, which wasn’t even a full season since he arrived only in October, he brought us two cup finals (one of which was a Europa League final) and all with an unbalanced team he inherited from Brendan Rodgers.
Yes, we lost both of those, but the fact alone that we were there galvanized our fanbase and there’s a lot of excitement regarding Klopp’s tenure at Anfield. Having said that, we’re not blinded by love for him and are able to see that he can make mistakes (like the unwillingness to spend in January, for instance) and that we are still a work in progress. It is absolutely undeniable that we see Klopp as the man to bring us the long awaited glory again
Q. As you know, Mamadou Sakho has been a revelation at Palace since signing on loan. Was it a mistake for Klopp to let him go and does his have a future at the club?
I have to admit, I am a HUGE Sakho fan. And, most certainly, the whole situation hurt me a lot. Especially since we don’t really know the actual reason which led to his temporary departure from Anfield. I was extremely happy to see him back to his best playing for Palace, which gives me a glimmer of hope that Klopp and Mama can bury the hatchet and I’ll see the rock of the man cementing our backline next season again. Sakho is a borderline world class defender, as I’m sure Palace fans have noticed since he put on the jersey. I fail to understand some of our own fans who want him out of Liverpool
Q. If you had the power to make one change to the game of football, what would it be and why?
Unrealistic change I know but take all oil and oligarch money out of the beautiful game. Since I belong to the late eighties/early nineties generation of football fans, I feel blessed that I managed to witness football before it became corrupt with all the crazy budgets and obscene ticket prices. In this respect, Leicester City’s title win last season was very enjoyable to watch. A true football miracle in an era when financial gaps between clubs are insane. But this change seems more like a fantasy these days. The more realistic alteration to the game that I’d love to see is the introduction of a video assisted referee. Officiating has been appalling at times and ALL teams lost points and trophies due to inadequate refereeing (Liverpool, for instance, had at least one blatant penalty not given in the Europa League final last year). That’s why video technology for doubtful situations would help to make the beautiful game even more beautiful and fair.
Q. What is your view on Palace both as a club and how the season has panned out so far?
I have nothing but respect for Palace. I would even say it’s my favorite London team especially considering that support at Selhurst is among the best and most vocal in the league. I definitely want to see more of that next season and sincerely hope Palace stay up which now seems more and more likely. Although, to be honest, I hope you get a better manager for next season than Sam Allardyce. He does the job of keeping clubs in peril safe from relegation, but he’s hardly the kind of manager who can bring substantial success. So I’m not his biggest fan, to be frank.
Q. Name one player from each team that the opposition should be concerned about.
For Liverpool, I think our main danger man is Phil Coutinho. He has been back to his best in the last few games following after a lengthy injury spell. He has been somewhat inconsistent this season, mostly due to that injury, but he’s the kind of player who can be quiet for most of the game and then produce a moment of absolute magic. That’s why us Liverpool fans call him “O Magico”. On his day, Coutinho could be absolutely unplayable, especially if his fellow Brazilian Bobby Firmino is tuned to the same waves. Just the weekend before, the two came on at half time at the Britannia and smashed Stoke, eventually overturning our dire performance and snatching a very important win. This weekend, Firmino again scored a winner against West Brom, while Coutinho was on top of his game again, spraying beautiful passes and being a constant threat on goal.
As for Palace, just as the last time we discussed the match up on the pre-game podcast in October, I genuinely fear Christian Benteke. I thought he was a very good player when he donned the red at Anfield and received too much criticism from Liverpool fans. After all, it was not his fault that the manager who had signed him failed to build a system to suit his talents. Which are aplenty, and let’s not forget the “former player” factor. Considering Benteke did not leave Liverpool with a lot of love between him and the fans, im certain he would be striving to silence the Kop. My second most dangerous man in Palace would be Wilfried Zaha. Both Benteke and him have been on form lately, so I’m expecting them to be lit again. So my hope is that our questionable back line manages to keep them at bay.
Q. Your prediction ahead of the game at Anfield?
As I’ve said before, every remaining game is like a cup final for us. If we are to get that lucrative top four finish and Palace at home will not be an exception, even despite the fact we managed to overachieve on our own expectations and get all six points in two tough away fixtures at Stoke and West Brom. Despite some gap in the table between the above mentioned teams and Palace, I genuinely think Palace would be a bigger threat to us, even at Anfield. Besides, stakes are really high. A Liverpool win would almost seal a Champions League spot for us, a Palace win would ensure survival for the Londoners in the Premier League. So I’m fully expecting both teams to be very focused on a win and show up with all guns blazing. It will be a matter of which manager makes better decisions and which players show more skill, both sets of players have plenty of despite a thirty point gap between them in the table.
Quite obviously, the absence of Sakho will be a huge blow for Palace and of major benefit to Liverpool, but I’m expecting a very open high scoring game. I’ll go with a narrow home win (along the lines of 4-3 or 3-2), but I won’t be too disappointed if it ends with a draw. We can still afford to drop a few points before the curtain falls on this season, and I won’t have a grudge if it’s against Palace of all other teams we are yet to play. In any case, I hope we will all enjoy a good game of footie!
Q. Thank you for talking to TEB. Please tell us about anything you would like to promote or projects you are working.
I’m a regular podcaster for the Anfield Index and expecting to be on several of them before the end of the season. Plus, I’m running my own video show on Anfield Index TV – YaRAW (see latest episode below). It airs on a weekly basis and there will certainly be a post game show after the encounter at Anfield. Thank you for having me, good luck for the remainder of the season and lets hope the better team wins on Sunday!