The Citizens are hoping to remain in the top four with city rivals United just a point behind in a campaign that has not quite matched the pre-season Pep Guardiola hype. Meanwhile, Palace are still not safe despite a wonderful April in which they defeated Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool – three results that mean City must be well prepared for the fixture.
Injuries an ongoing problem for both sides
Guardiola confirmed that both Sergio Agüero and John Stones will miss the game against the Eagles and also labelled midfielder David Silva a doubt. Additionally, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo will miss the rest of the season after injuring his calf during the 0-0 draw with Manchester United.
Sam Allardyce confirmed that Andros Townsend will be assessed ahead of the clash after he “felt a twinge” in his achilles, but at least it’s not a fresh defensive issue. The Eagles have already lost Pape Souaré, Scott Dann, James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho to season-ending injuries, leaving Allardyce with just Martin Kelly and Damien Delaney as his recognised first team centre-backs. The pair failed to deal with Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes during the recent 2-0 defeat to Burnley and could face further problems against better opposition on Saturday.
Neither quite met expectations
Rewind to the beginning of the campaign and Man City were seemingly on their way to a title in Guardiola’s maiden Premier League season. A ten-match winning start to the season now seems so long ago in what has been a much more difficult job for Guardiola than many expected.
A defeat to Tottenham Hotspur halted that run. Since then, the Citizens have been inconsistent and quickly drifted away from the title race, even to the point where they are now fighting for a Champions League spot next season.
Similarly, the Eagles have not been able to put their 2015/16 woes behind them as many expected them to do. Only being the highest-spending club in the division in January has lifted them out of the relegation zone, although fans still fear a drop into the second-tier – despite the general media narrative suggesting the final relegation place will go to either Hull City or Swansea City.
Allardyce has worked his usual end-of-season relegation-surviving magic, although he had a much harder start than some would have imagined. A heavy 4-0 defeat to former club and now relegated Sunderland sparked a toxic atmosphere and fans were seemingly resigned to relegation. However, a successful April looks to have now saved the club’s Premier League status, which looked heavily under threat just three months ago.
With so many players out for both sides, two slightly weaker teams could be fielded for the lunchtime fixture.
Yaya Touré will come into the side if Silva is deemed unfit to play, while Gabriel Jesus could start as a lone striker in Agüero’s absence, having started up front with the Argentine last weekend in a 4-4-2 formation. Willy Caballero will start in goal and Vincent Kompany will want to continue his good form at centre-back.
Delaney and Kelly are the only fit Palace players capable of starting at centre-back, while James McArthur will continue in midfield in place for the missing Cabaye. Jeffrey Schlupp could start in a wide midfield role if Townsend’s late fitness test sees him miss out.