Pep Guardiola will look for an immediate response from his team against Crystal Palace, who will be hoping to do the double over Manchester City.
The Premier League title race is picking up heat as Manchester City travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace. Pep Guardiola’s men could jump to the top of the table if they are to win against the Eagles, and could remain in the lead at the end of the day, if chief rivals and current leaders Liverpool drop points when they take on Chelsea later on Sunday.
But, Guardiola will be wary of Roy Hodgson’s side after Crystal Palace surprised Manchester City at the Etihad back in December, starting what became a sloppy run in that month for the champions. They come into this game on the back of a Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat to Spurs, whom they face later next week. The second leg tie could dictate Guardiola’s team selection on Sunday.
Hodgson and his Crystal Palace side will be hoping to stop Man City yet again in their pursuit of the title. Palace have been the bogey team for Man City in recent years. First, they derailed their brilliant run with their win back in December, while in 2017 they were also responsible for halting City’s incredible 18-game-winning run.
But considering Palace’s inconsistent form since that win in December, Manchester City can cause plenty of trouble for them. In their most recent game, Palace lost 2-0 to Tottenham at the North Londoners’ new stadium, and now Hodgson will be looking for a response from his side against the reigning champions.
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Hodgson will rue his luck with injuries after defender James Tomkins was ruled out for the rest of the season after he underwent groin surgery. With Mamadou Sakho also out of the game, Hodgson will contemplate the idea of giving Scott Dann just his fourth start of the campaign.
Martin Kelly could be the preferred partner for Dann in central defence, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick van Aanholt set to take up full-back roles.
In central midfield, captain and penalty specialist Luka Milivojevic, who is just one short of equalling Andy Johnson’s 11 penalties in a season, will be a sure starter. James McArthur is likely to partner him against Manchester City.
Andros Townsend, who scored that fantastic goal against City the last time out will also feature, while Hodgson has his choices in Michy Batshuayi and Wilfried Zaha in attack.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Guaita; Wan Bissaka, Kelly, Dann, Aanholt; Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp; Batshuayi, Zaha
Guardiola will look to tinker with his squad for the Crystal Palace game, ahead of the crucial Champions League encounter with Tottenham. It’s still a mystery why Guardiola rested Kevin De Bruyne for the midweek game, but the Belgian may be given a start against Palace, although he is unlikely to play the entire game.
Sergio Aguero, who was far from his best against Tottenham is set to be replaced by Gabriel Jesus as Guardiola tries to manage his best players and keep them fresh for the Champions League. There could be more changes in the offing, and Guardiola could give the likes of Danilo and Riyad Mahrez a run in. He could make a late call on Raheem Sterling’s role, probably playing Leroy Sane in his place on the left.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has impressed this season, is a doubt for the game. In midweek Fabian Delph played at left-back, and the England International could be rested, meaning Benjamin Mendy could get some minutes in the side. Bernardo Silva is also set to miss the Palace clash with a muscular injury, meaning Ilkay Gundogan will have to play in his place.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sane
- Crystal Palace are looking to complete the top-flight double over Manchester City for the first time since the 1972-73 campaign.
- The last non-big six sides to beat Manchester City twice in the same Premier League season were Everton back in 2010-11.
- Manchester City have won five of their last seven Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, though they haven’t beaten the Eagles in their previous two encounters (D1 L1).
- Manchester City themselves were the last side to complete the league double over a Premier League reigning champion.
- Crystal Palace have won just 41% of their Premier League points in home games this season (16/39)
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It was a surprise to see Leroy Sane on the bench in midweek against Tottenham, as Guardiola preferred Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling for wide roles. Sane has had his share of problems this season, although he still remains one of Guardiola’s most trusted men. The manager will bank on Sane for games like the ones against Palace, and he needs the German in full-swing.
It’s also a chance for him to show his manager that he is more than capable of handling the pressure of big games and make a case for selection during midweek and beyond. Will he take his chance with both hands when offered?
Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester City
If one considers Manchester City taking this game against Palace for granted, they are utterly mistaken, because Guardiola very well knows the dangers of doing so and will field his best side to get all three points. Palace, on the other hand, are not in the best of form, although they have shown in the past, especially against Manchester City they can be their bogey team.
In all, it does look like the champions will edge Palace in this encounter and take all three points to go above Liverpool in the standings, albeit temporarily. As for Palace, they have the attacking threat to trouble a big side like City, and they could also score a goal. But if one has to compare the quality and the form, City will be the team to take all three points.