Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 6 May 2017
Referee: Michael Oliver
Kick off: 12:30
Following a frustrating 2–2 draw on Teesside, City begin a streak of favourable home games that could define the difference between success and failure in the continued race for Champions League qualification. The first of three crucial Etihad clashes commence against Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace tomorrow at noon, with the Eagles having gained some decent momentum of late and all but secured their Premier League status. Their last away outing, an impressive 2–1 victory at Anfield in which lead scorer Christian Benteke, who’s bagged 14 league goals since departing Liverpool, was at the very heart of a credible performance — bagging a brace. That is not their only surprise victory on the road in recent weeks either. A fortnight prior to Liverpool’s humbling, Palace cemented their boast as one of the only two teams in the league to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this season.
28 points separate these two teams in the league and on paper this is City’s favourite remaining battle, but statistics don’t tell the whole story — Crystal Palace will be a threat, and Pep Guardiola’s side being at their professional, ruthless best is a definite requirement. Yaya Touré was the hero in City’s last league match against Palace, and similar heroics wouldn’t go a miss this time round. The major plus side for the blues is the return of some beloved faces: Gabriel Jesus, who bagged a clinical header at Middlesbrough, and David Silva are two names that immediately lay the mood of positivity. In this preview, I’ll be going through all the included and left out names on the squad list, enticing statistics, potentially game changing appointments, where blues can watch it and what we can expect.
Details and where can I watch it?
If you haven’t got a ticket or are unlikely to get one, Sky Sports will be airing the match live from half an hour prior to kick off. Luckily, for those of you without Sky, NBC are also showing it and with just access to the internet you can try streaming it all the way from the United States — or if you have access to a special box (wink, wink). Though that’s a last resort, basically any pub with a television will be showing it.
However, if in the event of complete travesty that you find yourself unable to access any of these things — BBC Radio 5 Live with Mark Chapman will be covering the bout from 12:00.
Michael Oliver takes charge this time, cue the boos. Oliver, you may remember, took charge of City’s home game against Liverpool back in March. A game that will mostly be remembered by the blues for an horrendous penalty decision — one that involved Raheem Sterling’s legs being taken away by James Milner; preventing the opening goal.
Former referee’s chief Keith Hackett blamed mental fatigue for his poor officiating performance, so lets hope he has had the rest needed to redeem himself. Meanwhile Jake Collin and Edward Smart make up the linesmen and Jon Moss has been named the fourth official.
Palace are subject to the absence of key players coming into this one, with winger Andros Townsend in serious doubt to make the trip. If he doesn’t manage to board the Palace bus, the Englishman will join Yohan Cabaye (knock), Mamadou Sakho (knee), James Tompkins (leg) and Scott Dann (knee).
With that list in mind, the Eagles defence could include some sporadic names; names which City could potentially take confidence from.
One massive change for the blues comes in the shape of Sergio Aguero, who won’t be able to play tomorrow due to a groin injury picked up at Middlesbrough. The Argentine is City’s top scorer this season with 18 league goals, but the return of Brazilian prodigy Gabriel Jesus slightly lessens the blow.
Claudio Bravo is again stuck on the side lines with a damaged calf and according to Guardiola, the Chilean is unlikely to feature again this season. John Stones also misses yet another league game due to his adductor problem. There are also some doubts over David Silva, although he has been training and could make it.
Crystal Palace, 4–2–3–1: Hennessey, Ward, Kelly, Delaney, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Cabaye, Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend, Benteke
Manchester City, 4–1–4–1: Caballero, Navas, Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Yaya Touré, Sané, Gabriel Jesus.
Sky Blue Stats and Facts
– City have won eight of their last nine Premier League games against Crystal Palace, with a 2–1 defeat at Selhurst Park in 2015 being the only fall.
– Palace haven’t kept a Premier League clean sheet against City since 1993
– Christian Benteke has scored against 22 clubs in England, but never City. Having faced the blues seven times.
– The Eagles have failed to score in each of their previous three trips to the Etihad.
The importance of a win here cannot be overestimated enough. City’s record at the Etihad has faltered in recent seasons, with Mancini’s fortress mentality having all but depleted. But, with three home games against Palace, Leicester and West Brom, the blues can take one almighty leap towards Champions League qualification providing they take maximum points from these pivotal fixtures.
The absence of Sergio Aguero for this clash is unfortunate, but Gabriel Jesus’ second coming has gifted a replacement attacking threat just in the nick of time. As for Palace’ attacking credentials, the now resurgent partnership of Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi must be at their level-headed best against Christian Benteke who’s re-found his best form under Sam Allardyce.
All in all, a positive mind set is key to overcoming this potentially rich run of home games — professionalism and ruthlessness are the pivotal ingredients on which City can rely to finish an inconsistent season on a high note.
City 3–0 Crystal Palace (G. Jesus, De Bruyne, Touré)