Manchester City vs Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace head north this weekend for a Saturday afternoon date with Manchester City. It doesn’t sound too bad when you say it like that!
But the Eagles have found it difficult to score this season, and that spells big trouble against a side which has banged in 17 goals during a five match winning run. The Premier League throws up surprises week after week but it would be another major shock if Palace head coach Roy Hodgson could mastermind a win at the Etihad.
When they are on song, Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues are the best attacking force in Europe but, while the odds tell the story of a near foregone conclusion, which, of course, is always a dangerous assumption.
The Sky Blues are way off the pace at the top, having dropped too many points from games they have dominated, and there seems to be no stopping Liverpool. The Reds won a difficult match against Spurs last week, thanks to a Roberto Firmino strike.
You wouldn’t put it past Pep’s team launching an attack, were in not for one fact. Liverpool, 14 points clear and with a game in hand, have won 20 and drawn one of their opening 21 fixtures. They would need a dramatic collapse in their Premier League 2020 results to let the Sky Blues back in. They would need to lose six of their remaining 17 games or draw most of them.
Aguero is simply the best
Manchester City won’t be looking at the league table too much, but they have plenty of other targets in sight; and recent form is superb, particularly in attack. Since his £35m transfer from Atletico Madrid Sergio Aguero has become the stand-out star in the Premier League.
His hat-trick against Aston Villa last week was his 12th in the Premier League, more than any other player, and he has now scored the most goals of any overseas player, surpassing Thierry Henry’s 175 and drawing alongside Frank Lampard on 177. Only Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole are now ahead of the Argentine scoring sensation.
Aguero took all the plaudits last week, and quiet rightly, but his strike partner Gabriel Jesus is starting to show just how good he is and has weighed in with nine goals.
City have goals coming from all angles, with Raheem Sterling scoring 11 to add to Aguero and Jesus’ 22 combined, then Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez have bagged seven each with Bernardo Silva scoring five.
When the Sky Blues move into top gear you can find all six of them in your penalty area… and that is terrifying for any defence.
Palace searching for goals
They might be sitting comfortably in mid-table but, in contrast, the Eagles are the second lowest scorers in the Premier League. Head coach Roy Hodgson has moved to rectify that in the January transfer window by offloading Christian Benteke and replacing him with Everton’s Cenk Tosun.
Benteke has failed to score in 16 appearances this season and is hoping to re-ignite his career at Aston Villa. He has only scored once since April 2018 so Villa fans will need to be patient.
Tosun has joined the Eagles on loan until the end of the season, having found game time at Goodison Park hard to come by since the improvement in form of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison.
Palace may he without midfield man Max Meyer who was injured in last week’s home draw with Arsenal.
The Sky Blues have won 17 of the 26 meetings over the past 25 years, with the Eagles winning five and there have been four draws.
But last season Palace sprung a major surprise at the Etihad and ruined Pep’s Christmas with a 2-3 smash and grab, Andros Townsend scoring a sensational goal for the Eagles.
But recent form suggests a repeat is unlikely; Crystal Palace haven’t won in four, while the Sky Blues are on a five match winning run.
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