Crystal Palace v Manchester City: City slickers to continue treble push

Andrew Atherley expects another decisive away win even with a much-changed starting XI...

Uncertainty for Palace

Crystal Palace have kept the relegation zone at arm's length and any danger seems to have passed now. Lying 13th with 38 points, the Eagles are close to safety mathematically, although only a win here would give them a chance of final confirmation this weekend.

There has been a sense of drift in the second half of the season, not helped by the uncertainty over what the future holds for Hodgson and several of his key players.

The 73-year-old manager is out of contract in the summer along with 11 players including Gary Cahill, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt, Andros Townsend and Christian Benteke.

The injury list is easing for Hodgson, although he is still without James McArthur, Connor Wickham and Nathan Ferguson.

Jeffrey Schlupp and James McCarthy were involved again as late substitutes in last week's 2-1 defeat at Leicester and defenders Cahill, Sakho and James Tomkins have returned to training.

City marching on

Having lost the chance of the quadruple with their FA Cup exit, Manchester City sealed the first leg of the treble with last weekend's Carabao Cup triumph over Tottenham and took another huge step forward on Wednesday night when they won 2-1 at Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

Pep Guardiola's side will be confirmed as Premier League champions if they win here and Manchester United lose against Liverpool on Sunday, although there is not much doubt the title will arrive before long in any case.

With the second leg against PSG coming up in midweek, Guardiola looks sure to make several changes to his starting line-up here, with the likes of midfielders Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden likely to drop out along with central defenders Ruben Dias and John Stones.

Among those looking for a start are defenders Nathan Ake, Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia and forwards Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres.

Timing an issue for City

The timing of this fixture could have a significant role, having been scheduled for 12.30pm on Saturday even though City played away in Paris on Wednesday night.

It is worth remembering that City recently lost 2-1 at home to Leeds in similar circumstances - a 12.30pm kick-off in between Champions League matches.

The quick turnaround would probably have prompted changes from Guardiola in any case but even more so with City focused on Tuesday's second leg. For the Leeds match he made seven changes from the midweek Champions League line-up.

With a maximum of five points needed from the last five games to guarantee the Premier League title, this match is unimportant in the grander scheme and Guardiola is set to put out a largely second-string side again.

That description is relative of course and City are massive favourites at 1.37.

One guide to how the second-string side might perform comes from the early rounds of the Carabao Cup and City had no problem there, winning 3-0 at Burnley and 4-1 at Arsenal before Christmas. Once again they are by far the likelier winners here.

Palace will take some hope from the fact that City's line-up is set to look very different from the starting team they faced in a 4-0 thrashing in the reverse fixture in January, which featured eight players who were involved against PSG on Wednesday.

But any case for a big upset rests mainly on the questions regarding City rather than Palace's own capabilities.

Hodgson's side have won only ten games in the Premier League this season and seven of those came against teams below them in the table. The exceptions were Manchester United (currently second) early in the season, Leeds (ninth) and Wolves (12th).

City have scored at least two goals in 16 of their last 17 away games and won every time, which indicates a decent chance of covering the Asian handicap off -1.5 at 1.96.

Those are reasonable odds against low-scoring Palace, who rank joint-fifth with 12 blanks this season. As Opta point out, Palace have lost 13 of their last 17 Premier League meetings with City (W2 D2), failing to score on 10 occasions in that run.

Tread carefully with goals

Palace actually rank higher than City for matches with over 2.5 goals, lying 11th with 50% while Guardiola's side are 13th on 45%.

City's figure is linked to the impression that they don't always make their chances count or press home their advantage when in front.

The leaders have not scored more than two goals in their last 10 matches, since their 3-0 win at Fulham in mid-March, which might leave backers of over 2.5 goals at 1.73 relying on Palace to get on the scoresheet too.

Hodgson's side have done that in their last five games, though scoring only once each time, but managed just one shot (off target) in the reverse fixture against City.

City have conceded in only two of their 13 games against bottom-eight teams, which makes an away win to nil well worth considering.

Opta Stat

Man City have conceded the first goal in each of their last two Premier League games, more than they had in their previous 23 in the competition (1). They last conceded first in three consecutive league games back in November 2019, coming back to win two of those (L1). A Palace-City result on the Half Time/Full Time is available at 24.

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