Our football writer previews the FA Cup matchup between Crystal Palace and Man City.
Sam Allardyce’s world-renowned skills of club rejuvenation have been sadly absent thus far at Palace. If anything, not only are they losing, they are actually playing a less exciting brand of football than the pathologically attacking Pardew side. Despite the fact they are encased in a deep relegation battle, there’s no doubting that Big Sam is under huge pressure to at least put up a performance this weekend.
Manchester City would ideally view this as an opportunity to rest some of their key players, but pressure is mounting on Pep Guardiola and this may represent his best chance of winning a trophy this season.
FA Cup Fourth Round | Saturday 28 January | Selhurst Park | 17:00
To Win Match (90 Mins)
Crystal Palace 47/10 | Draw 32/10 | Manchester City 5/10
Big Sam knows that next weekend’s away trip to Bournemouth is extremely critical. But looking at the manner in which Man City absolutely outclassed Spurs for much of that surreal 2-2 draw, I think it may be prudent of him to pick a strong side this weekend.
What he doesn’t need right now is a 5-0 home defeat to just compound issues. He is reportedly a whisker away from securing the future of Patrick Van Aanholt in a move that will be a major coup for the club, especially with new signing Schlupp likely to miss out this week with severe cramping.
The addition of Loic Remy following a long injury spell looked to inject some enthusiasm into the side. He will likely play off the left-hand side, with Christian Benteke charged with trying to emulate Romelu Lukaku’s performance from a few weeks back. The latter eviscerated Man City with his strength and power, and it wouldn't hurt if Benteke took a page out of his compatriot's this weekend.
I’m concerned for Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur, whose athleticism has occasionally been suspect when trying to contain counter-attacking threats. And speed on the counter is one thing that the Citizens do possess.
Man City were quite sensational against Spurs for much of the match, with the same defensive frailties letting them down. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aleksandar Kolarov slot in as an unconventional centre-back this weekend as John Stones is rested.
And after a grandstanding debut, I expect Guardiola to reward Gabriel Jesus with his first start, allowing Sergio Aguero some time to recuperate before their away trip next week. Similarly, Raheem Sterling needs a break. His level of performance has plateaued hugely. I expect the dynamic Jesus Navas to step in for him.
I suspect that he may also give the indefatigable Kevin De Bruyne a rest this weekend, trusting in Leroy Sane and Navas to provide the necessary width.
When you look at the incumbent Crystal Palace fullbacks - coupled with their laboured holding midfielders - you would expect that they will be able to expose them purely through pace. I think that Man City are travelling to a Palace side in the midst of a crisis of identity.
Verdict: Manchester City Win (5/10)
I think that some of City’s younger, more dynamic players are going to put on a show and alleviate some of the doom and gloom that has infiltrated City of late. Expect Jesus to get off the mark as a Man City player this weekend.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets