Venue: Selhurst Park
Date: 19 November 2016
Referee: Bobby Madley
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV.
After a long, lifeless International break, City return this weekend. Pep Guardiola’s men travel to London to face Crystal Palace.
With Pep’s first season finding itself at a bit of a critical point, how crucial is the game at Selhurst Park? Here are some of the things to consider.
City Could Fall Away
It sounds a bit daft, I know. City have looked a much better side than in previous years so far this campaign; why would there be concern? Well, despite our exhilarating start, things have stalled a bit. Just when you thought the win at West Brom would spark a revival, City drop a lead at home to Middlesbrough in what was one of the most frustrating performances in a long time. On the other hand, you have Chelsea and Liverpool. Both sides are building momentum. In all honesty, Liverpool look unstoppable on their day, whilst Chelsea have found their feet under Antonio Conte and look ready to put together a real title challenge. The game at Palace on Saturday isn’t the be all and end all of the season, but if City are to stay close to the pack, a win would be very handy. I talked a few weeks ago about City’s run of fixtures and how it should suit us completely. Now, it looks more like a run where gained points will be vital to keeping us in the run-in. Still, it’s still very early on and there’s no need for panic. Even if that ultimately means City finishing short of the eventual Champions in May.
Big Players Need to Step Up
It seems at the moment that our performances are patchy. Everyone turns up for a win against Barcelona, days later and the players’ complacency is there for all to see in a disappointing draw at home to Boro. Simply put – it’s not good enough. It might sound like a dramatic thing to say, but the gloss of the Barcelona game was well and truly removed with the draw against the Teesiders. What’s the point in a side that can get up for games against the best, but can’t turn up against lesser sides? I know we’ve all said it, but where was the intensity against Middlesbrough? We scored a fantastic goal in a half where we could and should’ve scored three or four. Then, we completely took our foot off the gas, disrespected our opponents and ultimately surrendered three points. The Palace game offers a chance at redemption. Our big players need to turn up with the same level of intensity shown against Barcelona; without it, we’re not a team that will go places any time soon.
International Duties Will Affect Team Selection
With a squad of talented players, Pep has the constant opportunity to chop and change things. Sometimes those changes will be enforced by poor performances or injuries. In this case, I expect Pep to change things significantly due to the International break. It comes with having the squad that we do, but our players are worked to the bone. I’m certain that Pep will be assessing fatigue and tiredness in the next 24 hours, and it could lead to a few surprise inclusions in the starting XI. If that ends up being the case, it could be a chance for a few players to work their way into Pep’s plans. Whether or not that’s a bad thing, I’m not sure. You would think that giving less-fancied players the chance to fight for a place would inspire some strong performances. It doesn’t always work like that. In what looks to be a pivotal game in terms of building momentum, the thought of being without some of our stalwarts is concerning. Still, time will tell and City have every chance of leaving London with three points regardless of the starting XI.
If I was managing Palace, I’d be thinking about where to exploit City at the back. We have certainly shown ourselves to be fairly frail this year. I’m expecting a duel between John Stones and Christian Benteke. Benteke’s physique, jumping ability and and style of play is sure to keep Stones very busy over the course of the 90. Stones is no slouch against the aerial ball, but as somebody who rates Benteke, I can see it being a long afternoon for our English prodigy.
I think the game in the capital will provide a very healthy challenge this weekend. I’m not expecting City to run away with anything, let’s put it that way. But, the players will still be hurting after the draw to Middlesbrough. I’m expecting a response in a difficult game. 3-1 City.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-11-19″ default_css=”true”]