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Three talking points as Manchester City thrashed Crystal Palace at the Etihad

Rob Meech

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A swashbuckling second-half performance helped Manchester City demolish hapless Crystal Palace to remain at the summit of the Premier League.

It took City 44 minutes to break the deadlock, but once they did the floodgates opened. Raheem Sterling scored twice, while Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero and Fabian Delph were also on target for the hosts, who have scored 21 goals from six top-flight outings so far.

Palace however, are still to find the net or register a point this season and are rooted to the foot of the table. Here are three things we learnt at the Etihad Stadium.

Sizzling City are setting the benchmark

The two Manchester clubs are locked together at the top of the table on 16 points – but it is the blue half of the city that has really caught the eye so far.

Pep Guardiola’s men have recorded four consecutive victories, scoring 18 goals and conceding just one in the process. While United have generally ground down their opponents, City have simply outclassed them with breathtaking football.

They have goal scorers all across the pitch and a depth to their squad that is unmatched. The signings they made in the summer have greatly enhanced the squad and they are showing exactly why they were rated the frontrunners for the title before a ball was kicked.

Hodgson has an unenviable task

It is fair to say eyebrows were raised when Palace replaced Frank de Boer with Roy Hodgson, who had been out of work since overseeing England’s embarrassing Euro 2016 campaign, just four games into the season.

The South London outfit have not had the new-manager bounce the club’s hierarchy would have hoped for. If anything, their performances have deteriorated further.

Of course, Hodgson will not be judged by the results against a side of City’s class, but Palace are completely bereft of confidence and even after six games, look destined for the drop. Still pointless, it is tough to see when they will finally break their duck.

Palace’s next opponents, you ask? Manchester United.

Sterling is confounding his critics 

The England forward has often been criticised for his finishing ability – but this season his statistics in front of goal are up there with the best.

Sterling has bagged five in six Premier League games, averaging a goal for every 60 minutes he is on the pitch. Important goals too, including the equaliser against Everton and an injury-time winner versus Bournemouth.

His brace against beleaguered Palace was another indication that he has stepped up his game this season and is benefiting from working under a coach of Guardiola’s calibre. There is plenty more to come from him, too.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

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
Photo: Getty Images

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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Crystal Palace

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
Photo: Getty Images

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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