After entering the top four for the first time this season on Wednesday, Manchester City meet Crystal Palace on Sunday to keep their impressive run going.
Pep Guardiola’s men, who are now 3rd in the Premier League table with a game in hand, will focus on Crystal Palace to add to their seven-match winning streak in all competitions. The Eagles have been a tricky opponent for Guardiola’s side in the last few seasons, but City should look in good shape on the back of a 14-match unbeaten run.
Roy Hodgson’s men currently sit 13th in the table, and have had a mixed run of form so far this season; suffering heavy defeats at the hands of Liverpool and Chelsea, but snatching important points away from Manchester United, Tottenham, and Arsenal. They've won only one of their last five games and look particularly unsettled at the back.
City have a nearly full-strength squad with the return of Ferran Torres against Brighton. Eric Garcia and Cole Palmer have returned negative COVID tests and are back in training after their periods in isolation.
Sergio Agüero remains unavailable for this one after coming in contact with a family member who's tested positive for COVID; the striker himself has not tested positive, but is still in isolation due to Premier League protocols. Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Aké are not in contention for this game.
For Crystal Palace, Wayne Hennessey, Mamadou Sakho, Jeffery Schlupp, Nathan Ferguson and Connor Wickham remain out due to injury. Gary Cahill also came back from a spell on the sidelines, but did not feature in their game against Arsenal.
Head to Head
The two sides - who have had some interesting matches in the past few years - haven’t played each other for almost a year now. Sergio Agüero’s late brace was cancelled out by a Cenk Tosun header and an unfortunate Fernandinho own goal in the 90th minute when they last met.
The Blues haven't won this fixture at home in the previous two seasons; in fact they've won just two of their last five meetings against Palace. Overall, the Cityzens have won 33, drawn 14, and lost 16 of their previous meetings with the Eagles before Sunday's fixture, with this being the 64th occasion on which these two sides meet.
The Manager's Thoughts
Pep Guardiola, when speaking about Sunday's opposition said; "They know exactly what they have to do. They defend so well, we saw vs Arsenal, (their) quality upfront. They controlled part of the game. It was tough the last seasons here when we lost & drew."
Speaking of the opposition, Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson when asked to speak about City and had only positive things to say. He began by saying; “If they’re not conceding goals, they’re always likely to score with the quality of players they have. It’s going to be a very very tough ask. Am I looking forward to going there? Well, not really - I know it’s going to be a very hard ask for us."
On how his side will approach the game, he said; “One should be looking forward to it because it’s a fantastic stadium and we’re playing against a fantastic team, and the reason we’re in the Premier League really is to play in these games."
"It would be another feather in the cap because I don’t think too many people will be expecting us to go there and beat them, so we go there very much as underdogs. But I’d like to think they will respect us, they will respect what we try and do and the way we try and play so they won’t take the game lightly."
Against Brighton, City went with their usual 4-3-3 set up without a recognised striker. Gundogan was given the liberty to go further up the pitch, with De Bruyne playing a little deeper to help in managing transitions. Rodri did well in controlling the midfield and had a good game against a tough Brighton side. Joao Cancelo moved into midfield to create an overload, as has been the case in the last few games, while Zinchenko balanced his attacking runs and provided support to the centre backs, becoming a wide three at the back in some phases of the game.
Guardiola will take a cautious approach against Palace, keeping in mind their attacking threat in the form of Zaha and Eze. Pep will probably revert to two holding midfielders, with either Fernandinho starting besides Rodri or Gundogan being asked to take a more balanced approach. Handling transitions will be a key factor in the game.
Referee Lee Mason, who was the referee in City’s 5-0 win against Burnley back in November, will referee his 8th Premier League game of the season.
Mason will be joined by Assistant Referees Tim Wood and Scott Ledger, along with Andy Madley as the Fourth Official. Martin Atkinson (VAR) and Peter Kirkup (AVAR) have been handed the VAR duties.
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