City’s recent record against Palace in all competitions – P6 W6 D0 L0 GF24 GA2 – would appear to make this game a foregone conclusion. But that would be a mistake and I am pretty sure that it is not one which Guardiola will make, nor will he allow his players to approach this game with anything other than the complete professionalism which they have displayed all season. Take every game seriously; take nothing for granted; do NOT assume you just have to turn up to win; respect your opponent.
Under Roy Hodgson Palace have started to show signs of recovery. He took over a squad that was confused and without direction after the brief tenure of Frank de Boer – they looked odds on for relegation. Whilst they are not out of the woods and remain in a perilous position (16th place on 18 points – only 1 point ahead of Bournemouth in the drop zone) he has overseen a substantive recovery. Since he took over on 12th September Palace’s struggles were obvious and they won only two of their first nine games under Roy’s watch, losing six and drawing one. However since their narrow defeat (1-0) by Spurs at the beginning of November they haven’t lost a match – P8 W3 D5 L0.
It seems that Roy’s experience is coming good and he is having an influence.
Pep will be well aware of the potential for an upset and he will be sure to instil in his players the need to bring their ‘A’ game to Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon.
There will be some rotation no doubt as Pep seeks to negotiate the congested festive fixture list and ameliorate the effects of so many games in quick succession. Delph might be expected to return at left back and Mangala will feature alongside Otamendi in the centre of defence unless John Stones is deemed fit to return after injury. The sight of Vincent Kompany departing the field of play early on Wednesday evening & for the second time this month was desperate for both the player, his team mates and the fans. His fight against the chronic and persistent problems which have plagued him for over twelve months now will continue and we can only wish him the very best.
It remains unclear at this time whether David Silva will feature. The Spanish magician was absent from the victory over Newcastle with rumours circulating that he had returned to Spain perhaps for reasons related to his recent absence for personal reasons. We also wish him well in whatever trials he may be facing on the family front. Gundogan would be set to continue should El Mago be unavailable. If he does I hope Pep has had a word about his decision making as there were at least two opportunities to pass to a better placed team mate rather than attempt a shot on goal in the game against Newcastle. That drives Pep a bit crazy – it certainly frustrated me.
Sané may return up front with one from the trio of Sterling, Aguero or Jesus perhaps to start from the bench.
Rafa Benitez has come in for some searing criticism for the approach he took on Wednesday evening and it remains to be seen whether Roy Hodgson will adopt a similar tactic. I cannot believe he will commit the equivalent of footballing Hari Kari and instruct his team to attack with reckless abandon, but I do anticipate a solid defensive and hard working attitude from his side who will want to end City’s startling run of victories.
City’s previous successes against Palace must be put aside. This is a fresh game against an improving Palace side and they must not be taken lightly.
One game at a time boys, one game at a time.
Come On City!!!
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: Eddie Smart, Andy Halliday
Fourth official: Stuart Attwell
Crystal Palace v Manchester City – Match Preview