Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has cast doubt upon Manchester City’s ability to win their final two matches, believing his side still have everything to play for heading into their penultimate fixture of the season at Crystal Palade on Monday night.
After Liverpool’s defeat to Chelsea took the destination of the Premier League title out of their hands, City hung on to beat Everton 3-2 on Saturday and move top of the table on goal difference entering the final two games of the campaign. Following their visit to Selhurst Park on Monday, Liverpool take on Newcastle United on the final day, while City host Aston Villa on Wednesday and then West Ham on Sunday. While those fixtures appear kind for City, it would require them to win five matches in a row to keep the championship in their own hands, something they have done only once before this season.
“It is a tough ask for City,” he said, according to The Guardian. “To play three games at this stage of the season that really, really matter is a real tough ask. Aston Villa are an incredible team on the counterattack and better away from home, and West Ham on their day can be a really difficult opponent.
“City's result [at Everton] won't deflate us because we know we have to win against Palace no matter what. We know we have to win at Palace and win against Newcastle. That hasn't changed and that is our focus.”
Were City not to slip up, overturning a nine goal deficit in goal difference will put even Liverpool’s goal-scoring prowess firmly to the test. Yet Rodgers would not rule out accomplishing the feat and suggested that racking up the goals will be a priority alongside simply securing the three points against Palace and Newcastle.
"If there is any team that can score goals and turn it around it will be us,” he stated. “There is no question. That will be our aim. No question about that. I have seen it before. Chelsea beat Wigan 8-0 in the last game of the season [in 2010, when Chelsea won the title]. I am not paying any disrespect to Newcastle at all but if there is a team that has shown it can score goals, it is us. We are not a 1-0 team. We showed that at the beginning of the season but what we have shown since is we can score goals.”
If there is a team most cut out to play the act of spoilers, though, it is perhaps Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace. When the former Stoke City boss took over at Selhurst Park in November, Palace were cast adrift at the bottom of the table, with their immediate return to the Championship already a foregone conclusion in the minds of many. But Pulis has instigated an extraordinary revival. Palace’s safety has been secured with games to spare and they could yet end the season in the top half of the table.
Rodgers quipped after the defeat to Chelsea that their opponents’ negative, direct tactics and time-wasting would prepare them to take on Palace. There is certainly some truth to that. Like Chelsea, Palace will doubtless instigate a game plan to try and frustrate Liverpool. Having become anxious chasing a goal in the second half, Rodgers has an important task to get his players to remain calm and focus on the fluid attacking game they have played through much of the season.
They could be helped in that regard by the possible return of Daniel Sturridge. The England forward came off the bench against Chelsea following a hamstring problem, but Rodgers conceded later that he was far from fully fit. Now back in full training, he has a chance of being in the starting lineup and resuming his partnership with Luis Suarez, now the Football Writers’ Player Off the Year, as well as the PFA Player of the Year.
Liverpool’s only absentees are long-term injury victim Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson, who will serve the final match of his suspension. Pulis has no new injury worries.
Crystal Palace (4-4-1-1)
D: Mariappa, Dann, Delaney Ward
M: Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie
Liverpool (4-4-2 diamond)
D: Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan
F: Suarez, Sturridge
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.