Xtra Tactics: Crystal Palace vs Manchester City (Premier League)

Manchester City take a trip to South London to face Crystal Palace at the Selhurst Park in what promises to be a fascinating contest in the Premier League 2018-19 season. The Pep Guardiola-managed Cityzens are coming from a crunch 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, but would be eyeing to continue their scintillating run in the Premier League as they look to achieve the unachievable – The Quadruple.

Crystal Palace are just one of the four teams that have defeated Manchester City in the ongoing Premier League season after they clinched a 2-3 win at the Etihad Stadium earlier in December 2018. The match witnessed arguably the goal of the season by Andros Townsend as the Blues were hunted down by the Eagles.

Having said that Pep would want to get the record straight this time around after failing to beat the rejuvenated Palace twice in a row (0-0, 2-3). However, the match won’t be a cakewalk for  Manchester City as the Glaziers are known for hunting down big teams at their den. Despite their packed schedule, City’s Premier League momentum has been impressive, with Pep Guardiola’s men registering eight straight wins, six of which have been accompanied by a clean sheet.

Crystal Palace – Most used formations

Roy Hodgson has been switching formations with match-to-match and has been flexible with his approach given the team they are facing. From 4-3-3, 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1, Crystal Palace have played it all in the ongoing campaign.

However, the Eagles are expected to play a 4-3-3 formation with Wilfried Zaha, Mitchy Batshuayi and Andros Townsend leading the attack. Jeffery Schlupp, Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur completing their mid-three. Patrick Van Aanholt, Scott Dann, Martin Kelly and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are expected to form the defensive line for Palace, with Vicente Guaita in goal.

James Tomkins (groin injury) and Mamadou Sahko (knee injury) will be a big misses for the Eagles in the centre of defence.

Crystal Palace – Strengths

BURNLEY, ENGLAND – MARCH 02: Palace players Wilfried Zaha (L) and Michy Batshuayi look on during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor on March 02, 2019 in Burnley, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Crystal Palace’s main threat comes from their attacking trident of Townsend-Batshuayi-Zaha. The trio have the ability to turn the game single-handedly with their pace, directness and goal-scoring prowess. Zaha has been electric this season with his trickery while Batshuayi has been like a missing piece of a puzzle. What Townsend did last time against City will be fresh in every Cityzens mind and every Blue will hope the same doesn’t happen on Sunday.

Likewise, Luka Milivojevic has notched up 11 goals in the ongoing Premier League campaign and remains the not-so-secret weapon from the penalty spot. Pep Guardiola’s men will have to make sure they don’t end up making any rash challenges in the area. With Roy Hodgson’s men also having the ability to hurt from set-pieces, City’s players will have to keep an eye on Dann, Kelly, Batshuayi whenever they concede a corner or a free kick.

Crystal Palace – Weaknesses

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 12: Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace and teammates look dejected following Watford’s first goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Watford FC at Selhurst Park on January 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Even after having such a balanced squad, Crystal Palace have conceded a staggering 43 goals in the Premier League this season. The spaces they open up while defending a counter-attack have hurt them the most this season and that is what the likes of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez (whoever start) will like to exploit should they find themselves on the break.

The passing range of their midfield, barring McArthur, isn’t top quality which might make it even tougher for the South London club against City. Contrastingly, the Blues will have to make sure they can get Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva on the ball in order to punish any stray balls that might drop for them on Selhurst Park’s tight pitch.

Manchester City vs Crystal Palace – Last 10 Head-to-Head results:

(Credit: 11v11.com)

Though overall form over the last ten games makes for quite pleasant reading with seven wins, two losses and one draw, Guardiola’s main concern will surely be on the last two fixtures. There is a concerning sign that Palace could be developing a ‘bogey team’ tag, as City’s form has appeared to regress with each recent meeting. Though recent fortunes would suggest an uphill battle, everyone in sky blue will be keen to dismiss this possibility with an emphatic result.

The Xtra View – “Don’t Expect An Easy Outing”

Manchester City’s German midfielder Leroy Sane (R) vies with Crystal Palace’s English midfielder Aaron Wan-Bissaka (L) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 22, 2018. (OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Manchester City are expected to continue their winning run in the Premier League and I feel they will do exactly the same. However, don’t expect an easy outing against the motivated Eagles. Crystal Palace are pushing for a top 10 finish in the league and are known for hurting title chasers – ask Steven Gerrard and Liverpool, which makes the situation more complicated for the Blues.

Manchester City will have to make sure that they don’t drop the intensity for a moment as the Blues can’t afford to get bruised second time in a span of four days and take a blow in two of the most important championships in the entire world (UEFA Champions League and the Premier League). I predict a 2-1 win for Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s men continue their hunt for the Quadruple – if it’s even possible!

You can follow the author on Twitter: @SubhayanTweets 

You can follow us on Twitter for more Manchester City content: @City_Xtra

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