Inside the Opposition

Inside the Opposition: City vs. Crystal Palace (Predicted XI, Man to Watch, Opposition View)

After recording five wins on the bounce, including comfortably seeing off Liverpool and Watford, City host Crystal Palace who are rock bottom after five games having failed to score a goal so far.

But this is football: on paper City should win easily, but Palace will be extra eager to put things right and set up with a resolute back line to prevent City from finding spaces.

Let’s have a look inside the opposition…

Predicted line-up

Following this record-breaking poor start to the season, Palace may change things around to try and find a recipe for improvement. One way they will look to do this is to introduce Mamadou Sakho back into Premier League action, after he registered 70 minutes in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday. Hodgson will see it as no coincidence that Sakho’s return led to a clean sheet, as the fan favourite was vital to Palace’s resurgence last season.

Elsewhere, Christian Benteke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will look to return to the side after sitting out on Tuesday night. The latter is already becoming a much-liked figure in the Palace fan base, and Hodgson received groans for substituting him last weekend.

Wilfried Zaha, who always causes a nuisance against City, looks unlikely to start, nursing an injury of his own.

In central-midfield, the ex-England boss has a few to choose from. In midweek he started with the defensively minded duo of Milivojevic and Riedewald, but his favored pairing seems to be McArthur and Cabaye, who offer a better balance.

Problems on and off the pitch

The demands of modern football, as we know, are very high. Managers get little time to put things right, but in the case of Frank de Boer, this was taken to a new extreme. The former Ajax and Inter head coach was given a grand total of four games before becoming the first man to lose his job this season.

Chairman Steve Parish admitted “it’s a results-based business” and acted quickly to appoint former England manager Roy Hodgson to take over.

Hodgson lost his first game, but signs of improvement were evident, albeit we would be clutching at straws. Ruben Loftus-Cheek looks a smart talent, and we all know the abilities of the likes of Benteke and Townsend.

Palace are without a goal in 450 minutes of football, and it only gets tougher, with the next three games against City, United and Chelsea – lets hope for Roy’s sake that he gets longer than four games to let his ideas filter through.

A view from the opposition

I caught up with Rob from FYP Fanzine and Jay from The Eagles Beak to ask about their feelings about their season so far, how confident they are on survival, and the game on Saturday in general.

Reflections on the De Boer sacking

Rob: It’s a difficult question because it seems, from the articles that have followed his sacking and from the chairman Steve Parish’s comments, that there were issues behind the scenes that lead to his sacking. While performances weren’t great, Palace’s main failure seemed to be that they didn’t take chances and made some awful individual mistakes. Parish, for all the talk of him being a trigger-happy chairman, has given worse managers more time — so it’s unlikely to have been purely on the basis of results. 

Jay: It may have looked harsh and many Palace fans including myself would have likely given him the Southampton game but it is clear that there was influence with the up and coming fixtures after the Saints game with visits to Manchester in consecutive weekends and then Chelsea at home. The thought of no points from the first eight games weighed heavy on the minds as there is little come back after such a horrific start. I believe their were errors on both sides, Steve Parish has freely admitted he made a mistake and perhaps FdB tried to change too much too quickly which just did not work unfortunately. 

Is Roy Hodgson the man to lead Palace in the right direction?

Rob: Hodgson is a manager that, because of that result vs Iceland, seems to have become the latest in a long list of managers to be written off and called a ‘dinosaur’ when his record with England showed an ability to organise and (for the most part) get the results that were needed. If his organisational skills can take hold, Palace might once again become a side difficult to beat. That’s a quality Palace need to develop promptly. 

Jay: Hodgson follows a long line for good old British managers at Palace who have each had an element of success leading the club. Just like Sam Allardyce, Hodgson has been castigated by the media for his stint in charge of England and he will be looking to prove a point. Having spoken to West Bromwich Albion and Fulham fans, he is very well thought of and those are similar sized clubs to Palace so hopefully it will work out for us. 

Thoughts on Manchester City’s start to the season

Rob: City have been outstanding so far, which given the money spent and the management of Pep Guardiola isn’t hugely surprising. It took Guardiola a season to adjust and understand what the Premier League entails but there is absolutely no doubt that you’ll be challenging for the title again this season. 

Jay: The jury is still out as City started in a very similar vein last season but there have been improvements throughout the side which suggests that they could actually maintain a title challenge this season. A very exciting side to watch in full flow and in slightly ominous form going into this fixtures after seeing off a Watford side that had started the season well. Please go easy on us!

Predictions for Saturday

Rob: Palace will defend to the hilt but, as recent results have shown, that’s unlikely to stop City’s attacking power. For us to get anything from the game we might need to see an incredible about-turn in luck — but Palace fans have already accepted that the club is unlikely to get anything from the trip to Manchester this weekend. 

Jay: As I eluded to above, City are in ominous form but I am sincerely hoping that the thrashing of Watford was a freak result rather than one that they can inflict on sides regularly. There are plenty of players to fear, David Silva seem to make City tick while with both Jesus and Aguero in among the goals already this season, they will both be very difficult for our back line to cope with. This is certainly a game we need a fully fit Mamadou Sakho available for. 

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