By Jaideep Vaidya
Crystal Palace welcome Liverpool to Selhurst Park on Sunday with memories of the sides 3-3 draw late last season still firmly ingrained in the back of Liverpool´s minds.
You could sense Neil Warnock was in a good mood as he kicked off Friday’s press conference at Selhurst Park, ahead of Crystal Palace’s vital clash against Liverpool on Sunday.
Dressed in a club t-shirt and training pants on a nippy winter morning, he joked with some senior journalists seated in the front row who were covered up in warm jackets. “Feeling a little cold?” he asked, with a chuckle.
Warnock’s upbeat mood was despite Palace going into Sunday’s game having lost four of their last five matches, which have left them just one spot above the drop zone in the Premier League table. Their last win was a 2-0 victory against Leicester City at the end of September.
However, Warnock is optimistic about his team’s chances against last season’s runners-up Liverpool, who are themselves struggling to find form.
“It’s difficult because out of the last five games we could’ve easily won three or four of them,” he said. “Things have gone against us in certain matches which could’ve changed the whole course of the game. We haven’t been able to capitalize on that.”
In their last game before the international break, the Eagles battled hard at Manchester United before a second-half deflected goal from Juan Mata got the hosts all three points.
“I thought we were very close to getting a result at Old Trafford and I think this [Liverpool game] is another opportunity for us really,” said Warnock.
“It’s a fine line. We are not far away in that respect but I think we’ve just got to get back to basics and start from the back: be hard to beat and then progress on to forward play. You’ve got to make your own luck.”
The build-up to Sunday’s game is bound to revolve around the corresponding fixture towards the end of last season, when the Eagles, then managed by Tony Pulis, staged a dramatic comeback from three goals down, scoring three in the last nine minutes in a result that was instrumental in denying Liverpool their first league title in 24 years.
However, Warnock believes the circumstances are different. He is hopeful they will provide a good contest from the start.
“I watched that game and Liverpool should’ve been 6-0 up before last 15 minutes, so I suppose it was a double whammy for them at the time. But I still think it’s going to be a good game [on Sunday].
“It’s great to play against a club like Liverpool with all the top players they’ve got. We’ve got to make sure we give them a good game at Selhurst Park with a full house. It promises to be a good atmosphere again.”
The injury list in Melwood is showing no signs of easing up for Liverpool, with Daniel Sturridge still ruled out, alongside fresh injury concerns Jordan Henderson and Mario Balotelli.
Speaking of Palace’s own injury concerns after the international break, Warnock revealed that midfielder James McArthur and striker Kevin Doyle, who both pulled out of their respective national teams ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifier between Republic of Ireland and Scotland, are still carrying a few niggles.
Warnock will be hoping the pair can prove their fitness in time to help ease their goal drought.
The Eagles have scored just 14 goals in 11 matches this season, while shipping 20.
“We’ve had some really good opportunities in the last few weeks, but we haven’t been able to convert into goals,” said Warnock. “Goals change games and give confidence to players. We need to get something going for us at the moment.”