Manchester City will be aiming to keep up the pressure on league leaders Liverpool with a victory against Crystal Palace at home this weekend.
Reigning champions Manchester City will face off against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace in gameweek 18 of the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side find themselves second in the standings, four points adrift of leaders Liverpool, who defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 away from home on Friday night. And, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss will be hoping to lead his troops to a victory against the Eagles in order to stay in touch with the table-toppers.
Manchester City’s last Premier League encounter ended in a 3-1 win against Everton last weekend, following which they edged past Leicester City in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup on penalties earlier this week. Having lost just one game in the league this term, the Cityzens will be aiming to keep that record intact on Saturday.
Crystal Palace are currently stationed in the 15th spot on the Premier League table, following their 1-0 win over Leicester City last weekend. The Eagles are just three points above 18th-placed Burnley though, and are in need of a succession of positive results to pull away from the relegation battle.
On their last visit to the Etihad, Roy Hodgson’s side were battered 5-0 by Manchester City, but they did manage to hold Guardiola’s men to a goalless draw at home on New Year’s Eve last year. And the manager will be hoping that his side show similar application to come away with at least a point from the den of the champions.
Team News & Tactics
David Silva is back in training after missing three games with a hamstring problem, but is unlikely to be rushed back into action by Guardiola. Vincent Kompany and Danilo are also major doubts to be involved on Saturday due to their respective injury issues, while Claudio Bravo and Benjamin Mendy are long-term absentees for City.
Having rotated his squad for the cup tie during the week, Guardiola is expected to recall a number of his regulars for the weekend encounter.
Ederson Moraes should return between the sticks, having not featured during the week. Kyle Walker will continue to feature as the right-back, with John Stones set to move back into his centre-back role, having started in the middle of the park in the cup tie. Aymeric Laporte and Fabian Delph are poised to come back into the starting XI at centre-back and left-back respectively.
Fernandinho will be back at the base of the midfield for the home team, with Bernardo Silva also set to return to the starting lineup in place of Phil Foden. Kevin de Bruyne made his first start in six weeks and scored against Leicester. But, given the busy period ahead, he is likely to be held back, with Ilkay Gundogan set to take up the third midfield slot.
Raheem Sterling should get the nod on the right side after featuring as a substitute against the Foxes, while Leroy Sane should start out on the left flank, with Riyad Mahrez and Brahim Diaz dropping out. Through the middle, Gabriel Jesus is likely to get the nod, with Sergio Aguero likely to be given a breather after starting in the midweek.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Delph; Silva, Fernandinho, Gundogan; Sterling, Jesus, Sane
The Eagles will be without the services of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who has a back problem, while former Liverpool defender Martin Kelly is also ruled out. Striker Christian Benteke has been plagued by injury troubles this term and is unlikely to be involved on Saturday, while summer signing Cheikhou Kouyate is expected to be fit after coming off injured in the last game.
Palace will also be boosted by the return of star man Wilfried Zaha and defensive mainstay James Tomkins, both of whom served a one-match ban against Leicester last weekend.
With Hennessey unavailable, Hodgson will be forced into handing a rare start to Vicente Guaita in goal this weekend. The impressive Aaron Wan-Bissaka should continue at right-back for the visitors, while Dutchman Patrick van Aanholt is a permanent fixture out on the left side of the backline. Tomkins should pair up with Mamadou Sakho at the heart of the defence.
Luka Milivojevic, who scored the only goal of the game last weekend, will continue to feature in the middle of the park for the Eagles. Partnering him against the champions will be the fit-again Kouyate. James McArthur and summer arrival Max Meyer will provide the forward thrust from the wide areas for Palace.
With Zaha back in contention, he will definitely feature alongside Andros Townsend at the tip of the attack for the Eagles, with Jordan Ayew dropping out.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, van Aanholt; McArthur, Kouyate, Milivojevic, Meyer; Townsend, Zaha
- Manchester City are unbeaten in eight matches against Crystal Palace and had won seven in a row prior to a goalless away draw last season.
- Crystal Palace have lost 5-0 on each of their last two trips to the Etihad Stadium. They have lost all six Premier League matches at the venue by an aggregate score of 21-1.
- Manchester City have won 27 and lost just three of their 34 Premier League fixtures in 2018, scoring 93 goals in the process.
- Roy Hodgson is winless in his past seven league games versus Manchester City, with his teams failing to score in the last five.
- Pep Guardiola’s side have scored 33 home league goals this season, 14 more than any other club.
Player to Watch
The England international is enjoying the best phase of his footballing career and has already notched up returns of 10 goals and 9 assists in 22 games across all competitions. Sterling is the third-highest goal-getter in the Premier League this term, having found the back of the net on nine occasions in England’s top tier.
He did not start against Everton last weekend, but made an immediate impact coming on from the bench to score City’s third goal of the game. The 24-year-old wasn’t part of the starting XI for the midweek game as well. So, in all likelihood, Sterling should start against Palace. Expect him to pose a serious threat to the Eagles’ defence on Saturday.
Manchester City 3-0 Crystal Palace
Manchester City are unbeaten at home in domestic competitions this season, having picked up 10 victories in 13 games at the Etihad Stadium. On the other hand, we have Crystal Palace, who are winless in six away league matches, losing five of them.
While the Eagles will definitely be buoyed by the return of star man Wilfried Zaha, it is hard to imagine them coming away with anything from their visit to the Etihad this weekend. A resounding victory for the reigning champions is what we, at The Hard Tackle, are predicting.