Liverpool are making their first trip to Selhurst Park since thumping Crystal Palace 7-0 just over a year ago – but their season has turned out in spectacular fashion soon after.
Although Liverpool’s fortunes have recently improved when it comes to playing at Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park is still far from a happy hunting ground for the Reds.
In fact, if there are any superstitious Reds fans, it might be best to look away now.
Liverpool’s bid to retain their Premier League crown ended up falling apart after their trip to south London last year – despite absolutely beating Palace 7-0.
Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino both bagged braces while Takumi Minamino, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson all got in on the act on a sobering afternoon for Palace.
While it was desperation for the hosts, the Reds enjoyed the glory of one of the most remarkable afternoons in recent Premier League history, but their joy was short-lived.
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Their demolition work in the capital may have earned them a five-point cushion atop the Premier League, but their season completely fell apart after that fateful afternoon against Palace; so much so that they needed a final goal from Alisson in the run-in to clinch third place.
But it was at Crystal Palace, a ground that has been a very unhappy playground for the Reds in recent years, that the decline began in earnest.
On the eve of the match, Salah appeared to put the wheels in motion to move away from Anfield as he revealed a long-held desire to play in Spain with AS.
Considering Barcelona and Real Madrid were filming at the time, Salah’s comments and the timing of his interview weren’t insignificant.
That uncertainty, coupled with a horrific injury crisis, played a big part in the Reds’ collapse in the second half of the season as Manchester City stormed to another title under Pep Guardiola.
Liverpool managed just three league wins in the 14 games following the match against Palace – a truly staggering run of form that killed any hope they had of winning back-to-back titles.
While their botched title defense stung, it was the uncertainty surrounding Salah who waived beyond May.
Fast forward 12 months and, in theory, it can’t be ruled out that they will once again be haunted by Salah and his future after their trip to south London over the weekend.
Liverpool F.C. via Getty Images)
The Egyptian superstar and the Liverpool hierarchy are currently locked in a contractual stalemate, with neither side appearing willing to give in to their demands.
But surely something must give.
In reality, it’s hard to see how Liverpool could even imagine replacing Salah given his outrageous form this year. And by the time they identify and sign a replacement, it’s not unimaginable that they’ve shelled out a similar amount to what it would cost them now to tie Salah down to a bumper new multi-year deal.
While it’s an eerily similar situation to the one that hung around Liverpool’s necks like the proverbial millstone last year, things look slightly different now.
Rather than subtly fishing for a move abroad, Salah instead made positive noises about wanting to extend his stay on Merseyside again.
In fact, Salah pretty much put his cards on the table and confirmed he would stay at Anfield if the Liverpool hierarchy met his demands.
It was Salah whose quotes once again grabbed the headlines, but this time the ball is in Liverpool’s court when it comes to his long-term future, given he has just 18 months left on the board. his current contract.
On the title front, it’s hard to imagine the Reds repeating their sweet surrender in the second half of the season given they pretty much have a clean bill of health and Salah and Mane need to return within fifteen. coming days.
Given the relentless winning machine Manchester City have been in in recent weeks, it already feels like the title could be forfeited for another year given that, even if the Reds win their game in hand, they will have eight points behind Guardiola’s side. .
Even at this stage of the season, it’s hard to see City blowing that lead. It seems almost inevitable that they will be crowned champions again.
When it comes to Salah’s future, things are far from clear.
But it still feels like Liverpool are better placed to hold on to their talisman than a year ago – even if time is running out to tie it down.