Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is well aware of the threat Christian Benteke poses – after all it was he who sold him to Crystal Palace – but has warned his players they cannot concentrate their focus on the big man.
The Belgium striker returns to Anfield for the first time since ending his one-season stay at the club last summer with a £27 million move to Selhurst Park.
Benteke has scored 14 goals this season – four more than he managed under Klopp last season – and three in his last four matches. Worryingly for Klopp he likes scoring against Liverpool, with five in seven appearances.
Only Stoke’s Jon Walters, who scored his seventh against the Reds in the Potters’ 2-1 defeat earlier this month, has more in the Premier League against the club.
“When the ball is in the air he is the main threat because he is unbelievable and we felt it all the time in training when he was here,” Klopp said.
“He has scored 14 goals this season so he is another player with confidence and on a good run. Always when you play against players like these type of players who are tall, good with their backs to the goal, you have to avoid the crosses and the passes.
“If we let them cross 50 balls it is pretty likely he will have a few dangerous headers but that is not his only strength.
“You have to avoid passes in this area but not only for him; if you only concentrate on Christian then (Wilfried) Zaha, (Andros) Townsend are around you. They have one of the best offensive lines in the Premier League and we respect this.”
While Benteke has done much to ease Palace’s relegation worries, there is an argument defender Mamadou Sakho’s arrival on loan from Liverpool in January has done more.
The France international, who has helped Palace keep four clean sheets in seven matches – from which they have taken 16 points and beaten Chelsea and Arsenal – will be ineligible against his parent club and that gives them a problem.
Sakho fell out of favour with Klopp after a number of incidents which began with him failing a drugs test in April – later quashed on a technicality – and ended with him being sent home from the club’s pre-season training camp in the United States.
“He is a good player and of course we watch all the games, especially in preparation for this game,” added Klopp. “He is a very good defender, especially when you defend deep like Crystal Palace do often.”
Klopp has defensive problems of his own with defenders Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan – plus midfielder-turned-auxiliary-centre-back Lucas Leiva – unable to train this week because of minor injuries.