Crystal Palace – Liverpool Preview: Reds out to regain top spot

Liverpool head to Crystal Palace having been knocked off the top of the table, albeit on goal difference, thanks to Manchester City’s win over Everton.

A sensational run of 11 consecutive victories for Brendan Rodgers’ men came to an end last weekend when Jose Mourinho masterminded a clinical 2-0 triumph for Chelsea at Anfield.

The Liverpool faithful looked on in horror as an error by talismanic captain Steven Gerrard allowed Demba Ba to open the scoring for Chelsea in front of the Kop last Sunday.

Rodgers was quick to defend the 33-year-old, whose superb form this season was rewarded with a place in the PFA Team of the Year. 

“Everyone had empathy for Steven,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “The mistake obviously changed the course of the game and he was just unfortunate.

“Steven was hurting like we all were but this is a player who has picked himself up after disappointments many times over his career here at Liverpool and he will do it again.

“He has carried this club throughout his career. There is no blame attached to him because he has been instrumental in where we are to this day and he will continue to be in the coming years.”

Daniel Sturridge, with 20 league goals to his name this term, has been similarly influential for Rodgers, and the Liverpool boss is hopeful the England striker will be involved at Selhurst Park despite a hamstring injury restricting his participation in training this week.

Reuniting Sturridge with 30-goal Luis Suarez would come as a huge boost to Rodgers, with the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year enduring a relatively barren run of two goals in his last six appearances.

Rodgers and his Palace counterpart Tony Pulis are two names in the frame for the manager of the year gong due to their outstanding achievements this term.

Pulis was chasing a club-record sixth straight top-flight win before City stopped them in their tracks last weekend.

Even so, that scintillating run of form was enough to secure the London club’s Premier League status and earn Pulis April’s manager of the month award this week.

And the 56-year-old used his pre-match press conference to dispel suggestions that a rift with chairman Steve Parish could see him seek pastures new.

“That’s nonsense,”  he said. “I think in the first couple of weeks me and Steve we had our moments but the longer the season has gone on the closer we’ve got.

“Our relationship – which I think is the most important relationship at a football club between a manager and a chairman – has gotten more and more solid.

Pulis expects to have a full-strength squad at his disposal for Palace’s final home game of the season, with Kagisho Dikgacoi having shaken off the knock that sidelined him against City.

Jose Enrique (knee) remains Liverpool’s only absentee. 

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