Saturday November 18th 15:00 GMT
At first glance, this match looks to be a gimme for Manchester City. After all, although they’ve only recently ended a winless six-match run, one of their three games since was the excellent win over Barcelona, a game in which they appeared to be the team they have so often threatened to be. It’s worth tempering that fact with another which states that they drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough in the following game, conceding in the 91st minute.
Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble
Speaking of bad runs, how about Palace? Alan Pardew is some kind of Sir Streaks-a-Lot. As has been noted in these pages more than once, Newcastle fans will tell all who would listen about Pardew’s unerring ability to steer his teams into runs, winless or winning. Truth be told, these days it’s more about the winless and the natives are getting restless.
After breaking transfer records and spending a mighty wedge of cash over the summer, Crystal Palace have amassed a set of some serious players. Derided by some after (and during) his short and unsuccessful stint at Liverpool, Christian Benteke has rediscovered his form, largely down to having wide players who play to his strengths and allow him to do what he does best and finish chances.
Got the tools, might as well use them
However, for all the strengthening of the team and the cash spent, Palace are on a dire run. They haven’t so much as earned a draw in their last four games and realistically have little hope of ending that awful sequence in this game. The thing is, though, that with pacey wingers like Wilf Zaha and Andros Townsend stretching the play and Benteke a dangerous and physical presence up top, they have the tools to cause a shaky City defence some problems.
Hubris or hobbled?
It is these failings defensively that are being used as the stick to beat Pep Guardiola with and, to be fair, there is some merit to the criticism. The Spaniard will not change his approach to the game for anybody and why would he when he’s won so much? The thing is, relatively lax though he might be with regard to defensive concerns, he’s not an alchemist and can no more turn Otemandi into Maldini than those medieval folk could turn base metal into gold. As long as this is the case, City can always be exploited.
Hope in the dark
This has to be the focus for Palace. Only the teams currently occupying the top four places have scored more league goals than them but only the teams in the bottom four have conceded more. That being the case, the chance of them keeping a clean sheet is slim but if they can keep compact in defence and sharp in mind, they have a chance of frustrating City and then, when the opportunity comes to exploit space at pace, they must make the most of it. Do all that and they’re in with a shout.
Whether said ‘shout’ would be enough to get all three points seems unlikely but a battling and spirit-lifting draw is not beyond them. City’s players were flung far and wide during the international break and some may well be feeling the effects. Daft as it given their respective form and fortunes, this column thinks a draw not altogether unlikely. Lame enough reasoning upon which to back such an outcome, we grant you but we’re thinking more along the lines of the price of a pint. MarathonBet are offering a price of 18/5 for the draw.