Liverpool return to Selhurst Park this weekend where they’ll battle Crystal Palace for an FA Cup quarter final berth.
The Croydon dwelling of the Premier League’s 13th-placed side represents the burial ground for many of the Reds’ recent dreams, with last term’s 3-3 draw killing their frail title hopes and a 3-1 reverse in November leaving them in the bottom half of the table.
A 21/20-rated victory for Brendan Rodgers’ men will help combat these bad memories and the stark upturn in his side’s fortunes since their most recent south London setback say this is an especially generous price.
The aforementioned defeat at the hands of the Eagles was their fourth in succession.
In the 21 matches to occur across all competitions following this ill-fated afternoon, Liverpool have lost just once and are currently unbeaten in 15.
Losing to a then beleaguered Palace outfit proved the catalyst in a tactical overhaul in the Reds ranks, with the side that will make this second Selhurst sojourn of the campaign far removed, in a structural sense, from the one that was so consummately bested here three months back.
This is how they looked pre-Eagles beating:
Nowadays they shape up something like this:
Fundamental differences in the formation include the abandoning of Project: Gerrard (Rodgers’ long-standing and flaw-ridden experiment in which he tried to prove the veteran was an able solo holding-midfielder), the four-man back four and single-pronged attack.
Three centre-backs, shielded by two anchormen provide additional rigidity.
Even the formerly flappable Simon Mignolet is benefiting from the solidifying of the team’s core, with the Belgian now demonstrating what a talent he is between the sticks with the appropriate protection.
Density in the middle affords the wing-backs unlimited attacking freedom, enabling them to exemplify their numerable qualities in the final third to overshadow those defensive deficiencies that were so easily exploited earlier in the campaign.
Furthermore, the vibrancy that was absent with Rickie Lambert leading the line by himself is now in abundance with three nimble, pace-loaded forwards splitting the striking responsibilities.
Having rediscovered their mojo and capability to attack and defend competently, the Merseysiders are primed to end their six-match wait for a win at Palace.