Eye on the Opposition - Manchester City (23.09.2017)

Written by Jack Pierce

Crystal Palace travel to Manchester for a daunting fixture against a Manchester City side that seem to have found their mojo under manager Pep Guardiola. Here's Jack Pierce to run the rule over Palace's opponents. 

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As a disgruntled Palace faithful left Selhurst last Saturday, you could sense the gathering of any optimism or any cause for enthusiasm was in short supply. With Southampton out of the way, we now entered the unenviable trio of fixtures that included two trips to Manchester and welcoming the champions to Selhurst in mid-October.

A significant portion of the support seems accepting that, given the form of the next three opponents, Palace will be pointless after eight games of the league campaign. Far from ideal.

We start the run of games with a trip to The Etihad where I think it's fair to say we'll find our hosts in good spirits considering their recent run. City maintained their impressive start to the season with a 2-1 win at WBA to join Palace in the Fourth Round of the League Cup but it’s their league form which has caught the eye. 11 goals scored and none conceded in their last two league games suggests that the brave souls wearing red and blue travelling up for the game may well be in for a long afternoon.

The magnitude of the win against Liverpool was perhaps influenced by the red card Sadio Mane received before half time but last weekend's win at Watford was a display from the top drawer. When in possession, this City side has the ability to make top level, professional footballers look like you and me. Their manipulation of opposition defences creates oppositions that few other team would be able to and in Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, they possess two strikers who aren't forgiving when offered goal scoring opportunities. While there were doubts as to whether Pep Guardiola would be inclined to use both strikers together on a regular basis, recent performances indicate the balance between the two is absolutely fine with both happy to drop in to different positions when necessary. Roy Hodgson will be pondering how to limit such fluid movement within the City frontline and should he find the remedy, he should bottle it and sell to the highest bidder because nobody else has got close yet.

After what can be fairly described as an underwhelming first season as City boss, there is pressure on Guardiola to provide results and trophies after the huge investment in him and the playing squad he has desired. For whatever reason, and despite a start similar to this one last season, City never really got close to Antonio Conte's Chelsea side in the title race and fell to Monaco in the Last 16 of the Champions League. If he wasn't Pep Guardiola, you'd dare suggest there may have been a little more critique than there was but perhaps that's why there is a greater pressure on him this around.

They’re in great form at the moment and that is undeniable. Add their victory against Feyenoord to the mix they’d won the three fixtures before Wednesday’s League Cup win 15-0. No points on the board, a managerial change already and our most potent attacking threat still absent, City fans will be licking their lips at the prospect of our lot showing up on Saturday and so they should be. It could be a mauling but after more than a week to set his team out, and with Mama Sakho to call upon, Roy may have instilled more sturdiness into the team and make it harder for City to break down than we might think.

We can dream until kick off anyway, can’t we?

Key Players

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Benjamin Mendy

Signed at huge expense after just one season, albeit a superb one, from Monaco, Mendy is already proving that he is a cracking asset to be able to call upon.

As with most full backs, there do appear questions about him defensively but as part of the attacking unit, he is clearly a very good player. The balance he's providing with Kyle Walker doing the same job across the pitch is exactly what Guardiola would've been yearning for at stages of last season.

Off the pitch, he (or his media team) is doing some fine things on Twitter too. Worth a follow.

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Kevin De Bruyne

The midfielder seems to have upped a level this season which in pretty incredible considering the return he offered last season in terms of goals, assists and chances created. However, he's appearing more influential this season; dictating games and the pace at which their played.

It must be a joy to look up and see the plethora of options he has in front of him but the difference is that De Bruyne finds them regularly and the transition to higher up the pitch is so quick, via the Belgian, that defences have very little time to set themselves.

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Sergio Aguero

Already the owner of what is often stated the most iconic Premier League moment of the league's 25 year history, 'Agueroooooo' could cement his City legend status on Saturday as he closes in on Eric Brook's all time goal scoring record. Two would equal it while a repeat of the hat trick scored at Vicarage Road last weekend would take him ahead of the existing record.

Doubts, even at the start of this season, remained of Guardiola's fondness for the Argentine striker but given his explosive start to the campaign, there should be no further conversation about his worth to City cause.

 

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