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Manchester City vs Crystal Palace: Premier League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction

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With four games to play in just over two weeks, Manchester City find themselves in a strong position to consolidate what has been a disappointing season by attaining Champions League qualification.

The Citizens currently occupy 4th, the final spot which gives a chance of qualifying for Europe’s premier competition. As it stands Pep Guardiola’s side hold just a single point advantage over their rivals Manchester United, but could leapfrog Liverpool into third should they win by two goals on Saturday.

At the other end of the table, Crystal Palace, who travel to the Etihad Stadium for the lunchtime kick-off, are close to securing their top-flight future, following some impressive results since Sam Allardyce arrived as manager.

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The Eagles are only two shy of the 40 points total that usually guarantees safety, and have a six-point cushion between themselves and Swansea City, with three games remaining.

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City have failed to win any of their last three matches in all competitions but faced both Arsenal and Manchester United within that short period. Their last ten league games have yielded only four wins (compared to Tottenham Hotspur‘s nine and Chelsea‘s seven) but include just a single defeat, suffered away to the league leaders.

Palace have gained more points than City from their own last ten, albeit losing more often. Allardyce’s side were victorious on six occasions, including wins at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, but have since lost successive home games, most recently granting Burnley their second away win of the season.

Still, things are looking much better at Selhurst Park than a few months ago. The side have arguably been aided by having no distractions from the league since City knocked them out of the FA Cup in January. That 0-3 home defeat was the last time the two teams met, but the Sky Blues have already beaten Palace in the league this season, and boast a record of eight wins/one defeat from their last nine encounters.

On the Eagle’s last three visits to the Etihad, they have conceded 12 and scored just once.

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Predicted Line-ups

Guardiola has continued a trend of altering formations and personnel that has been seen throughout the season. It is no secret that the Spaniard will look to significantly strengthen his team over summer – particularly in defence – and there are sure signs that he does still not know his strongest XI.

Allardyce, on the other hand, has proven much easier to predict since his first weeks on the job. The disgraced ex-England boss has recently stuck with a 4-2-3-1 formation, and will likely do the same despite two defeats.

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City’s only long-term absentee is Ilkay Gundogan who has not featured since December. Claudio Bravo will miss the season’s end after picking up a calf injury in the Manchester derby.

John Stones has been forced out of the last three games and could return. The Englishman may be joined by David Silva who has sat out of two matches, but Sergio Aguero is a major doubt and may well lose his place to Gabriel Jesus through injury.

Palace have been without Connor Wickham and Pape Souare for most of the season, whilst Scott Dann remains unavailable since sustaining an injury in the win at Chelsea. His absence, combined with more recent problems with James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho (who was stretchered off against Spurs) has left Allardyce with a defensive headache. Last week Martin Kelly partnered Damien Delaney at the back, there are few options available for this to change.

Match Prediction: Manchester City 3-2 Crystal Palace

The Citizens are on the verge of salvaging something from a disappointing campaign but face a difficult test from a Palace side desperate to guarantee their survival. In recent weeks The Eagles, particularly Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke, have shown how lethal they can be when playing on the back-foot.

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There is no doubt that City will dominate possession, and they shouldn’t have many problems breaking down the visitors’ depleted defence. However, Guardiola’s side have consistently had their own defensive frailties exploited and their much-criticised full-backs will be exposed by the skill of Zaha and pace of Andros Townsend.

If Palace had a full strength defence, a positive result would certainly be on the cards, yet without Sakho, who has been instrumental since arriving on loan, expect two poor defensive displays, and City to edge this one with their attacking quality.

Joe is a suffering Blackpool fan. Having banned himself from matches in protest at England's worst club owners; he now watches any other game, often writing about them here for The Boot Room.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha should resist move away from Selhurst Park

The Ivorian winger has been key for the Eagles this season.

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Wilfried Zaha
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Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha delivered yet another superb performance this weekend, scoring a crucial brace in Palace’s 3-2 win against Brighton.

In typical fashion, following his impressive showing, many have speculated that Zaha is far too good for this Palace team and should depart Selhurst Park in the summer.

However, Zaha should resist such urges and remain at Palace, where he will shine in the spotlight as their main man and bring top-half success to the Eagles.

The most recent rumours in the Times have linked the Ivorian with a switch to Tottenham Hotspur, but his 2013 transfer to Manchester United should prove a convincing deterrent against the move to north London.

Five years ago, Zaha swapped Palace for the allure of United, eager to become a star for the Red Devils. He signed a five-and-a-half-year deal at Old Trafford, but his time in Manchester was an abject failure.

The winger only made two league appearances for United, registering zero goals, before falling out of favour with David Moyes and being loaned out to Cardiff City. Just a season later, he was back at Crystal Palace.

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

This big money debacle reveals that Zaha struggles when inserted into a situation where he is not a guaranteed starter. His game thrives off of confidence, trickery, and flair; it is no coincidence his best years have come at Palace, a club that genuinely loves and appreciates him.

And, it seems the feeling is mutual.

Zaha prominently spoke this week about his intense desire to beat Brighton and silence their supporters, illustrating the winger’s cult status and loyalty to the Eagles.

For the 25-year-old, the perfect decision would be to remain at Selhurst Park this summer. Roy Hodgson will be given funds to shape the team in his image, and could easily reproduce his success at Fulham, where he inspired the Whites to a seventh-placed finish and a Europa League final.

With Zaha leading the way as the star man, the ceiling could be the limit next season for the Eagles.

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Could Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic be the perfect man for Crystal Palace?

The Croatian striker scored twice in Juventus’ Champions League win over Real Madrid.

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Mario Mandzukic
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31-year-old Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic turned back the clock on Wednesday night with a remarkable two-goal display against defending European champions Real Madrid.

If Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League status, then Mandzukic could prove the perfect man to solve their striker problems.

In the days leading up to the match, reports in Italian outlet Tuttosport, as referenced by Football Italia and Goal in Germanyhad linked the Croatian striker with a transfer to the Chinese Super League, claiming that Juventus were prepared to let him leave in the summer.

Yet the experienced striker has shown he still possesses the quality to perform at the highest level, evidenced by his dominating quarterfinal display. Two first-half towering headers revealed the forward’s predatory instincts, ability to latch on to crosses, and knack for powerful finishes.

A move to China, in essence still a glorified amateur league, would represent a dramatic step down for Mandzukic far too soon in his career. Only in his early 30s, the striker still has a number of productive seasons left in the tank and can adapt his game to accommodate his age.

Mario Mandzukic

His arrival at Selhurst Park would fill the gap that the Eagles have had at centre-forward for a number of years. The misfiring Christian Benteke has failed to impress this term, passing up many a golden opportunity.

Mandzukic would add a lethal touch to the multitude of crosses Roy Hodgson’s side tend to swing in, benefiting from Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha’s wicked deliveries.

Although the transfer may appear ridiculous, to begin with, Palace have a proud recent history of signing players from Europe’s top clubs. Yohan Cabaye joined from Paris Saint Germain, Mamadou Sakho and Benteke joined from Liverpool, and Jairo Riedewald was brought in from Ajax.

The acquisition of Mandzukic would be a brilliant coup for the Eagles and propel them to the upper half of the table next season.

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£28 million difference, but Crystal Palace would much prefer Glenn Murray

Christian Benteke has flopped at Crystal Palace this season, with just two goals compared to Murray’s 13 with Brighton.

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Crystal Palace suffered defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the Premier League yesterday, in what was a tight affair. A late goal from Mohamed Salah proved the difference, as Liverpool claimed a 2-1 victory. If only a former Liverpool player could have had a better day at the office, Palace might have taken all three points.

Christian Benteke’s poor form continued for the Eagles. He missed two golden opportunities to score in a game where the margins were considerably fine. The exasperation in team-mate Wilfried Zaha’s face made it clear what he felt of the Belgian’s wastefulness.

Palace fans are probably wishing they had a much less heralded and much cheaper former striker up front instead of Benteke.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Glenn Murray of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal at Amex Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Whilst yesterday was not his best day, Glenn Murray has been outstanding for rivals Brighton and Hove Albion this season. The 34-year-old has scored 13 goals in 34 games for the Seagulls this season. Benteke meanwhile has just two in 26 – an abysmal record for a striker with his price-tag.

Palace paid a fee in the region of £32 million to bring the Belgian to Selhurst Park back in 2016, as reported by Sky Sports. A year previously Palace had sold Murray to Bournemouth in a £4 million deal, according to BBC Sport. A difference of £28 million which, quite frankly, is laughable considering the comparable seasons of the pair.

Looking back with hindsight it is easy to see that Palace should have kept hold of Murray that summer. Now back with Brighton he has been a phenomenon this season whilst Benteke, at times, has been a phantom.

during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England.

If Palace had the chance to trade them right now for the relegation run-in, make no mistake, the £32 million striker would be sent packing his bags down the M23 to Sussex.

Palace need the Belgian to start firing if they are going to survive an extremely tight looking relegation battle in the Premier League. He does not need to look far for inspiration. If Benteke can find anything near the form Murray has exhibited this campaign, then Palace will have no trouble staying up whatsoever.

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