Crystal Palace-Manchester City Preview
Pep Guardiola is excited for a potential title challenge in the back half of 2020-21, but first his side must overcome Crystal Palace.
City have gone eight games unbeaten in the Premier League to move into the top four, and a win over Palace at home on Sunday would see them go within a point of first place should Liverpool beat Manchester United.
The swashbuckling City of past seasons seems to have been replaced by a more cautious team, with John Stones and Ruben Dias marshalling a defence which has conceded just twice in the league since a defeat to Tottenham on November 21.
Now, Guardiola is looking forward to building on the platform heading into the second half of the season.
"In my head and hopefully the players it's just Palace, not beaten them at home in the last two seasons, every season when you arrive, the last eight or 10 games in March, April, you see if you are a contender and it's so exciting," he told a news conference.
"A team like Palace knows what they have to do, be patient, they are so clever, they defended well [in a 0-0 draw with Arsenal on Thursday], they can produce a lot of quality up front, they controlled a lot of the game.
"We lost and drew in the last two years but we try to convince the players to do their job and win the game."
Palace are unbeaten in their last three league matches, and sit 13th on 23 points from 18 games, though Roy Hodgson knows his team are in for a stern test.
"Certainly the seven games in a row of victories - and often victories where they're not conceding goals or conceding many goal chances - that's always a worry for an opponent like ourselves," he said.
"It's going to be a very very tough ask for us."
Manchester City - Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne has been involved in eight goals in 10 Premier League games against Crystal Palace (two goals, six assists) - only against Southampton (two goals, seven assists) has the Belgian been involved in more in the competition.
Crystal Palace - Andros Townsend
Townsend scored a stunner in Palace's 3-2 win over City in 2018, and his crossing and set-piece ability could prove a threat to City's defence, while his pace from the flank gives the Eagles another option on the counter.
•No Premier League player has provided more assists in all competitions than City's De Bruyne (14). The Belgian's next assist will be his 100th in all competitions for the Citizens.
•City striker Sergio Aguero has been directly involved in seven goals in his last three home Premier League starts against Crystal Palace (five goals, two assists).
•Palace are looking to become the first team to win away against both Manchester clubs (City and United) in a single Premier League season since Liverpool in 2008-09. The last London club to do so in the top-flight were Arsenal in 1990-91.
•Only Manchester United (11) are on a longer current unbeaten run in the Premier League than City (eight). Guardiola's team have conceded just two goals in this run, while keeping six clean sheets.
•The home team has not won any of the last five Premier League matches between Man City and Crystal Palace (D2 L3) since a 5-0 win for City at the Etihad in September 2017.
Updated January 15, 2021