Anyone connected with Liverpool would have been forgiven for cringing when they were paired with Palace in the last 16 after a series of embarrassing and costly results against the south Londoners.
Last season, several of Brendan Rodgers’ team left the field in tears after squandering their last chance of winning the Premier League title as they blew a three-goal lead in an epic 3-3 draw at Selhurst.
They fared even worse on their first return to Palace, where they haven’t won since 1997, as the Eagles, then managed by Neil Warnock, romped to a 3-1 win in November that Rodgers regards as his club’s lowest point of the season.
As if those painful encounters with Palace weren’t enough to make Liverpool’s players and fans extremely concerned about their chances of advancing to the FA Cup quarter-finals, those with longer memories will also recall that Palace’s recently appointed manager Alan Pardew famously scored the winning goal when the Eagles shocked Liverpool in the 1990 FA Cup semi-finals.
But England international Lallana believes the opportunity for redemption will prove the decisive factor, especially as Liverpool have improved dramatically since Rodgers altered his tactics in the aftermath of that chastening loss in November.
“It’s a massive game. We got taught a lesson by Palace earlier in the season. We owe them one,” Lallana said.
“We’ve learned a lot from the difficulties we faced at the start of season.
“We have got everything to play for. Having a big mentality is massive, especially when you are at a club like Liverpool and have all these games to play.”
– United in the spotlight –
Manchester United will continue their lower league odyssey when they face League One side Preston North End at Deepdale on Monday.
Louis van Gaal’s team have narrowly avoided potential FA Cup upsets against minnows Yeovil and Cambridge this term and shouldn’t be taking victory for granted in their first encounter with Preston since 1972.
United have already lost to one third tier opponent this season, crashing out of the League Cup against Milton Keynes Dons, and they needed a replay to get past fourth tier Cambridge in the last round.
Simon Grayson’s Preston are fourth in the third tier table and veteran striker Kevin Davies, a former England international, hopes his team can take advantage of the negativity surrounding van Gaal’s use of long ball tactics this season.
“There have been a few boos about the long balls and the style of play has not been great,” Davies said.
“Just looking at one or two of the players, like (Robin) Van Persie scoring against Burnley, no real smile, he didn’t look particularly happy. Wayne Rooney playing a bit deeper.
“Are they enjoying it as much as they used to? I don’t get that impression.
“They’re fantastic players but I don’t think they’re living up to expectations.”
Holders Arsenal host Middlesbrough on Sunday boosted by the news that Alexis Sanchez did not suffer a serious knee injury in the midweek win against Leicester.
The Chile winger took a knock that left Gunners boss Arsene Wenger admitting he was concerned, but the problem is only minor, although he may opt not to risk Sanchez against the second tier leaders, especially with Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey already sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Third tier giant-killers Bradford, fresh from their stunning 4-2 win at Chelsea in the previous round, will try to claim another famous scalp when they take on Sunderland at Valley Parade.
Aston Villa play for the first time since the midweek sacking of manager Paul Lambert as Leicester visit Villa Park in a clash between two clubs currently marooned in the Premier League relegation zone.
FA Cup fifth round fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated):
Blackburn v Stoke, Crystal Palace v Liverpool (1730 GMT), Derby v Reading, West Brom v West Ham (1245 GMT)
Arsenal v Middlesbrough (1600 GMT), Aston Villa v Leicester (1230 GMT), Bradford v Sunderland (1430 GMT)
Preston v Manchester United (1945 GMT)