By Mihail Vladimirov.
The focus of this game is – rightly – mostly on Liverpool and Klopp. That’s because this is, arguably, the first time where the game is not only winnable but also as close to a ‘must win’ as it could get. The pressure is on Klopp to deliver the three points, even with the caveat he is still missing key players and he opted to play a strong side away at Rubin on Thursday.
Meanwhile, for Palace and Pardew this game is the proverbial ‘free pass’. A potential defeat won’t be a disaster (even if it’ll extend the run without a win to five games in all competitions) and anything the visitors can gain from this match – be it a performance or a result – will be taken as a bonus.
Pardew’s Palace evolution up to now
Last season Pardew had his success at Palace (finishing comfortably in midtable with a relegation-threatened side after being appointed mid-season surely qualifies as ‘success’) based on what he was always very good at – strong defensive organisation and drilling his side into an efficient counter-attacking style of play based on rapid transitions and clever final third combinations.
All of the above looked set to evolve when in the summer the Eagles announced the signing of Cabaye – the chief playmaker and key player at Pardew’s former club Newcastle – from PSG. The transfer was not only a big scoop in itself, but was taken as the start of a transformation Pardew was seemingly embarking ahead of the new season.
Back in the summer Pardew himself spoke about the importance of this transfer and how with Cabaye in place he would be able to evolve the team and set higher targets ahead of his team. Seemingly the Palace manager wanted to marry the team’s defensive solidity and counter-attacking potency with greater creativity in midfield and end up with more all-round tactical capabilities to suit the broader pool of challenges the new Premier League would have surely thrown at him and his side.
However, as the season started, it quickly become obvious that for all the optimism surrounding the Cabaye signing, Palace are still missing something that prevents them to evolve to the desired level of a more all-rounded and tactically more sophisticated team. That something was the lack of a reliable goal-scorer, someone who can marry all what is good about Palace into one whole. A potent goal-scorer was needed to unlock the team’s hidden potential and help them transform into that more tactically complex team, one who could vary its approaches and still be efficient.
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