Game week 27 brings to us some intriguing clashes in the English football. One such fixture sees defending champions Manchester City travel to the capital to take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Crystal Palace were last in action against Aston Villa away from as a poor showing saw the Eagles fall to a 1-0 defeat and ending the game with 10 men. The Eagles had put the ball in the net inside the first ten minutes through Wilfried Zaha- on his return after an injury layoff- but the Ivorian attacker was judged offside by VAR and the goal disallowed. Palace failed to create any clear cut chances after that and Villa grew into the game, opening the scoring through a Joachim Andersen own goal in the first half. A low cross from Matty Cash into the box found the Palace defender, who unfortunately could not sort his feet out and the ball ricohested off him and into the goal, wrong-footing goalkeeper Guaita. The Eagles were lucky to not lose by more with Villa failing to convert many good chances. Eagles midfielder Cheick Doucoure was then sent off for a second bookable offence, making it a miserable afternoon for the Londoners.
Manager Patrick Vieira expressed his concern at his side’s poor form as the defeat at Villa Park meant the Frenchman’s side has now gone nine league games without a win. Their last win came on New Year’s Eve against Bournemouth and since then the Eagles have failed to win. An even more damning stat came to light after the defeat last weekend when Palace did not register a single shot on target. That meant Vieira’s men have now gone almost 200 minutes without a shot on target, with their last attempt coming in mid-February against Brentford. It seems the Eagles are stuck in a rut at the moment, but Vieira has insisted that although he and the players are concerned with the league position and form, it is imperative they remain calm. The Eagles currently sit in 12th place, 5 points clear of the relegation zone.
Manchester City are another team under pressure currently, albeit the Citizens face a different kind of pressure to that of their opponents. The Citizens were gunning for a third consecutive league title this season, aiming to become only the second club- after Manchester United who completed the hattrick on two occasions from 1998 to 2001 and 2006 to 2009- to complete the elusive threepeat. At the start of the season it looked certain that City, like previous seasons, would dominate the league and win it yet again. However, an unexpected challenger in the form of Arsenal arose and the blue half of Manchester has not had the comfortable ride they would have hoped for. The Gunners lead the table, sitting five points clear of the Citizens and on course to win the title with 12 games left to play. However as the old saying goes, it is not over until the final whistle goes, and the Gunners will be looking over their shoulders for a storming blue cloud.
A win on Saturday would take Pep Guardiola’s men within two points of Arsenal, with the league leaders not playing until Sunday. However, it is easier said than done with Palace being something of a bogey team for the Citizens of late. Selhurst Park is famous for its hostile atmosphere and City have struggled to get results there. Saturday presents a chance for City to heap more pressure on the Gunners, who lack the experience of being in a title race like that of Man City.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Saturday, 11th March 2023.
Time: 5.30 pm BST
Venue: Selhurst Park, London.
Referee: Robert Jones.
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Dan Robathan.
Fourth official: Thomas Bramall.
VAR: Neil Swarbrick.
Assistant VAR: Steve Meredith.
Crystal Palace will be without the suspended Cheick Doucoure after the midfielder received two yellow cards in their defeat against Aston Villa last weekend. He will miss the game against City and will be back in contention in their next game against Brighton. Other than the midfielder, Palace have a couple players on the treatment table with defender Nathan Ferguson and backup goalkeeper Sam Johnstone long-term absentees who are expected back in April.
For Man City, Pep Guardiola will be one happy man as he travels to London with a near full-strength squad. Only defender Aymeric Laporte is doubtful after the defender picked up an illness. Guardiola has already confirmed that Phil Foden will be available for selection after the Englishman was taken off in their last game against Newcastle United with a foot injury.
The 24-year-old has been having a very decent 22/23 season so far in a Palace team that has found goalscoring harder than expected. Eze is the third-highest scorer in the league for the Eagles so far and the second-highest assist provider. He leads the Eagles for both non-penalty shots and open-play chances created per 90 minutes this season and has been very influential for his team on the counter. Against an organized and solid team like Man City, Palace will have to work very hard to get a sniff of goal and Eze will be crucial for them in terms of chance creation and goalscoring.
The young Englishman has 13 goals and 5 assists for the Citizens in 33 appearances in all competitions so far this season and he looks to have hit form at the right moment as we head towards the climax of the campaign. He has scored 4 goals in the last three games and will be extremely important for Pep Guardiola and City as they look to chase down league leaders Arsenal and keep the pressure on them.
CRYSTAL PALACE XI: Vicente Guaita; Nathaniel Clyne, Joachim Andersen, Marc Guehi, Tyrick Mitchell; Albert Sambi Lokonga, Will Hughes; Jordan Ayew, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze; Wilfried Zaha
MANCHESTER CITY XI: Ederson; Kyle Walker, Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake; Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne; Phil Foden, Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish.