Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Premier League meeting between Manchester City
and Crystal Palace
at the Etihad Stadium. The defending champions find themselves four points adrift
of top spot heading into this final pre-Christmas outing following leader leaders Liverpool's 2-0 win
at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday night, earned through goals from Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk.
Palace are also in desperate need of points, finding themselves 15th in the table and just three points above the relegation zone. It is fair to say that visiting boss Roy Hodgson
would happily accept a point if offered to him right now, though, with City boasting a perfect home record this season. The team news has just been released, so let us check out how both sides line up...
MANCHESTER CITY TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Delph; Gundogan, Stones Bernardo; Sterling, Jesus, Sane
SUBS: Muric, Danilo, Aguero, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Zinchenko, Foden
As expected, Pep Guardiola
has made a string of changes on the back of the midweek EFL Cup penalty-shootout win over Leicester City. There are eight alterations in all from the side that started at the King Power Stadium, with Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero among those to drop down to the bench as they are slowly brought back up to speed. Gabriel Jesus, boosted by his brace against Everton last weekend, starts up top.
Fabian Delph comes back in at left-back in place of Oleksandr Zinchenko and is awarded the captain's armband - the first time he has worn it. In terms of the changes made on the back of the victory over Everton, Guardiola has brought in John Stones and Raheem Sterling for Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez. Mahrez was due a rest after starting two games this week, while Fernandinho is not included in the 18-man squad at all.
Fernandinho had previously been an ever-present for the champions in the Premier League this season, but he is given the afternoon off today ahead of the gruelling post-Christmas and New Year run. With three central defenders being named in the side, including the returning Stones, it looks as though the Englishman will again be tasked with slotting into defensive midfield in a 4-3-3 formation.
CRYSTAL PALACE TEAM NEWS!
STARTING XI: Guaita; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; McArthur, Milivojevic, Meyer, Schlupp; Townsend, Zaha
SUBS: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Sorloth, Ayew, Puncheon, Riedewald
Switching focus to the visitors, Hodgson is without Martin Kelly and Cheikhou Kouyate this afternoon due to injury, with both men dropping out of the 18-man squad. There is better news for the Eagles, however, as Wilfried Zaha - undoubtedly the star man in this struggling side - returns from suspension, while James Tomkins is also back involved after missing the win against Leicester through a ban of his own.
Jeffrey Schlupp takes over from Kouyate in a midfield reshuffle and Zaha is on for Jordan Ayew up top. Palace's lack of a fit out-and-out striker - or indeed one that can actually find the net - has been well documented, so Hodgson will stick with his decision to go with Zaha and Andros Townsend in tandem. The other big news is that Vicente Guaita remains in goal with Wayne Hennessey still struggling with a back issue
Guaita kept a clean sheet against Leicester on his Premier League bow last weekend and may well have been restored anyway, but Hodgson's hand has been forced a little between the sticks. Palace can be dangerous in attacking areas when their attacking full-backs get involved, though Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick van Aanholt - the latter reportedly a January target for City last January - will have to focus more on the defensive aspect of the game today.
Pep Guardiola has made two changes to Manchester City's starting lineup from last weekend's 3-1 win over Everton, bringing in John Stones and Raheem Sterling for Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez. Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson makes three changes, meanwhile, with Wilfried Zaha and James Tomkins returning from bans to join Jeffrey Schlupp in the starting XI.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Manchester City have won 10 of their last 12 Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace and are unbeaten in the last six. The Eagles have failed to score in eight of the last 10 top-flight encounters, netting just twice in total. On home soil, meanwhile, the Citizens have won 10 and lost none of the last 13 meetings in all competitions since a 2-0 loss in December 1990.
Man City may have made a near perfect start to their campaign, dropping points in just three matches across the first four months, but they still sit second in the table after 17 matches and are now four points adrift of leaders Liverpool. The Reds sent out another clear message with their professional 2-0 win at Wolves on Friday, laying down a marker for the champions ahead of this game in hand.
Guardiola's record-breaking side had five points more at this stage 12 months ago and were already 11 points in front of closest challengers Man United, while Liverpool were 18 points worse off. That is a staggering points swing from the Reds' perspective, ensuring that we may actually have a title fight on our hands this season. All that said, the Citizens' standards have not slipped all that much over the past year.
City's only surprise result this term was drawing 1-1 at Wolves in August, as their recent defeat to Chelsea - ending their long-running unbeaten run - and draw at Anfield could hardly be described as shocks, even if many did expect them to come away with six points from the two games. Guardiola has rightly pointed out, though, that his side have already travelled to Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea, as well as hosting Man United, in the first half of the season.
Liverpool, by comparison, have some tough trips to come, and they also still have Arsenal to face before the year is out. There is a huge showdown between the top two on January 3; before then City face Palace, Leicester and Southampton, with nine points from nine likely to be the target from this nice festive run of fixtures. It has been a mixed month for City on the whole as, despite losing at Chelsea to relinquish top spot, they have made it through to the last 16 of the Champions League and last four of the EFL Cup.
The English champions made a slow start to their European campaign, suffering a shock home loss to Lyon on matchday one, but they recovered well by taking 13 points from the next 15 on offer to claim top spot, thus setting up a tie with Schalke 04 in the last 16. Burton Albion will be their opponents in the last four of the EFL Cup, meanwhile - a two-legged tie Guardiola will be confident of coming through with little problems against third-tier opposition.
City play nine games in December but, as witnessed against Leicester in midweek, they are able to chop and change when the games come thick and fast. Eight changes were made between the wins over Everton and Leicester, and eight more again today. The return of De Bruyne in particular is a huge boost for the home side, while Aguero should also be fit and firing in time for that Liverpool match in a couple of weeks' time. De Bruyne, incidentally, has five goals in four meetings with today's opponents.
DID YOU KNOW? Manchester City have won all nine of their Premier League home games this season, scoring 33 and conceding six. Only on five previous occasions in the Prem era has a team won their opening 11 on home soil, including the Citizens on a couple of occasions, along with Newcastle United in 1995-96 and Chelsea in 2005-06 and 2014-15.
Stick with the quirky facts, City are on the longest-ever unbeaten run in the traditional Saturday 3pm slot, winning 32 and drawing four since last tasting defeat. The Citizens have won each of their last 15 games at this time, meanwhile, winning by an aggregate scoreline of 57-7. It is an impressive run that many neutrals will expect the home side to extend over the next couple of hours.
Manchester City booked their place in the last four of the EFL Cup in midweek with a penalty-shootout win against Leicester City, following a 1-1 draw in normal time. The Citizens remain on course for an unprecedented quadruple, having also made it through to the last 16 of the Champions League, though they find themselves four points off Premier League leaders Liverpool ahead of this game in hand with strugglers Crystal Palace.
Palace picked up a much-needed 1-0 win over Leicester last weekend, secured through a Luka Milivojevic strike, to not only end their hoodoo without Zaha in the side but also lift some weight off manager Hodgson's shoulders. The victory keeps Palace three points above the relegation zone, but there is a chance for the teams below them to add some points to the board this weekend, so a heavy defeat at the Etihad and the Eagles will be in real trouble.
The Londoners have suffered back-to-back defeats on their travels to Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United, the latter after taking the lead early on, which has seen the pressure grow on manager Hodgson. According to the bookies, only Leicester boss Claude Puel's position is more perilous at this moment in time. A lack of strikers to choose from has been well documented, but it has to be asked whether the former England boss has played his cards right.
Two wins from four matches, and seven points from a possible 15, ensures that Palace are not at immediate threat of dropping into the relegation zone - bar an incredible swing in goal difference this weekend, that is. That run includes a goalless draw across the city at Old Trafford in one of Jose Mourinho's final home games in charge, and Hodgson would snatch the offer of a repeat scoreline at the Etihad. Remember, no team has stopped City from scoring, or indeed winning, on home soil in the league this term/
Palace face City and Chelsea either side of a huge Boxing Day home clash with fellow strugglers Cardiff City, so they will likely remain in a lowly position in the opening stages of 2019. After winning two of their first three away matches this term, the Eagles have since gone six without a victory on their travels, claiming just one point during that sequence - the eventful goalless draw at Man United on November 24.
Hodgson, meanwhile, has not won any of his last seven Premier League meetings with today's opponents, with his team failing to score in each of the last five. No current Palace player has managed to find the back of the net in an away league match against Man City. In fact, you have to go back to January 2005, when Darren Powell scored a consolation strike here, to find the last Palace player to do so.
With kickoff at the Etihad Stadium now less than 10 minutes away, let us check out some pre-match thoughts.
Pep Guardiola: "On previous years we played 26th and 28th, this time we have three or four days between games. We're probably going to train on the afternoon of the 25th before travelling to Leicester. Normally we train at 3pm or 4pm, maybe [on Christmas Day] we are going to train at 5pm or 6pm to give a few more hours for people at home. The players know we have to play."
Roy Hodgson: "It's another chance to show we're a good Premier League team, another chance to get points. The game is played on the grass and our 11 men will be doing the best they can to beat them."
Hodgson, who has a poor recent record against City, wants his players to show what they are made of at the home of the champions. The veteran English manager effectively described this as just another match, but there is no doubt that it can be a daunting task travelling to the Etihad Stadium. Opposition sides have conceded a combined 33 goals here across nine matches this season - will Palace be the next team to be put to the sword?
City boss Guardiola outlined his plans for the hectic Christmas and New Year schedule, which will see his side face Palace, Leicester and Southampton, before a truly massive home match against Liverpool in the first few days of 2019. All going to plan, the Citizens will remain within touching distance of the Reds heading into that match, setting up a potential title decider. Any slip-ups before then, though, and City may become the latest champions to fall short when defending their title.
Both sets of players have now made their way onto the field at the Etihad Stadium, with kickoff now just a couple of minutes away. There has already been one game played in the Premier League this afternoon - Arsenal beat Burnley 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium through goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Iwobi. That is good news for Palace, who will be aiming to move further clear of the dropzone today.
KICKOFF: Manchester City, aiming to move back to within one point of Premier League leaders Liverpool, get us up and running at the Etihad Stadium. The rain has relented just in time for kickoff.
SAVE! Sterling's miscued pass falls perfectly for stand-in skipper Delph to belt on target from 25 yards. The ball was hit pretty much perfectly, and Guaita had to get a strong hand to it to help it over the crossbar. City have not taken long to get going at all.
Stones, as we saw at Leicester a few days ago, is filling in for Fernandinho in front of Man City's back four. The home side have dominated possession early on here and have already come close to scoring through Delph's belter.
Fourteen of City's league goals this season - as many as Palace have scored overall - have come in the opening quarter of the game. Palace go on a rare foray forward, but Zaha is told to get up after going to ground on the edge of the box.
It is difficult to see whether Otamendi made any contact with Zaha a couple of minutes ago, but the Ivory Coast international certainly felt that he was caught. That all came about as a result of Stones losing possession on the halfway line.
SHOT! Otamendi gets his head to Sane's delivery but directs it wide of the target via a deflection. From the resulting corner, Otamendi's shot is blocked by a Palace player in front of goal. It does not take City long to put together another attack, with Sane shooting into the side-netting.
City well on top in the opening 13 minutes, then, and they have created a couple of chances to go with their high pass count. Palace are already holding on, and they have another 77 minutes to get through yet.
Another replay of the Zaha-Otamendi incident has just been shown and it appears that the Palace man pretty much chucked himself to the ground, anticipating contact that never arrived. Zaha has just been fouled inside the City half to win a free-kick, though, and there can be no complaints with this decision.
CHANCE! The chances continue to fall City's way. Sterling miscues his attempted shot 10 yards from goal, but it nearly turns into an assist of sorts as Bernardo got on the stray ball and saw his shot blocked from closer range. The hosts are knocking on the door.
Sterling goes to ground in the Palace box when attempting to chase down a lofted pass from Gundogan. There was not a great deal in it, with the Englishman simply crowded out by a couple of opposition players.
City are racking up the passes, but their play has gone a little stale over the past five minutes or so - not enough penetrative passes. The home side are furious as a goal kick is awarded, despite the ball seemingly hitting McArthur on its way behind.
Still just the one shot on target for the champions, coming via the boot of Delph a couple of minutes in. Sane and Sterling have also had half-decent opportunities, neither of whom could make the most of it. Palace are standing firm - for now!
Stones is not looking comfortable in his defensive-midfield role at all. Not that it really matters at the moment - Palace are too afraid to get bodies forward, so when possession is turned over Zaha is crowded out pretty quickly.
Great workrate from Sane to regain possession for his side after winning his side a corner that was cleared away. Sane's pass into the path of Jesus has a little too much pace on it and the Brazilian is unable to bring it under control.
GOAL! MANCHESTER CITY 1-0 CRYSTAL PALACE (ILKAY GUNDOGAN)
As simple as you like for City, who find a breakthrough with just under a third of the match played. Gundogan ghosted in front of Van Aanholt, who just appeared to switch off near the back post, and headed Delph's diagonal ball past Guaita. The Palace keeper made a simple stop from Sane's shot a minute beforehand.
Palace have taken just a single point from losing positions this season - not a good sign. Now that City have made the breakthrough, they will be confident of getting a second and third - that is what they tend to do.
GOAL! MANCHESTER CITY 1-1 CRYSTAL PALACE (JEFFREY SCHLUPP)
Where on earth did this come from?! It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is Palace's first serious attack of the afternoon, and it leads to an equaliser. Walker allowed Schlupp to get the shot away with his left, but questions need to be asked of Ederson here - the ball went across him and into the far corner.
That is the first goal Palace have scored away to Man City since Darren Powell netted here in January 2005. All of a sudden it is game on at the Etihad Stadium, where the mood has taken a sudden turn. The home fans did not seen that leveller coming.
GOAL! MANCHESTER CITY 1-2 CRYSTAL PALACE (ANDROS TOWNSEND)
UNBELIEVABLE! Within the space of two minutes and 42 seconds, Palace come from behind to lead 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium. And what a goal it was - Townsend watched the ball all the way and volleyed it past Ederson from around 32 yards out. On his 100th appearance for the club, the Englishman will not have hit a ball that sweet and probably never will again.
That Townsend goal really was special. Palace barely managed to get out of their own half in the opening half an hour of the match, but all of a sudden they find themselves a goal in front. Guardiola has plenty to think about in the remaining 50 minutes.
A cross from the left is easily gathered by Guaita at his near post. City have been rattled by Palace's two-goal response, and it is looking likely that they will go into half time a goal behind. Hodgson can barely believe it.
City win a corner, which nearly leads to an equaliser. The ball hit Sakho and rolled past Guaita's goal - a real let-off for the Palace defender. The home side are building some pressure now but time is not on their side at the end of this eventful first half.
YELLOW CARD! Zaha is aggrieved at the referee's decision not to award him a free kick when challenged, so he gets up and clatters into Gundogan to earn himself a yellow card. The Ivory Coast international needs to learn to curb his anger.
HALF TIME: MANCHESTER CITY 1-2 CRYSTAL PALACE
Incredibly, Crystal Palace take a lead into the half-time interval thanks to a remarkable turnaround. The Eagles trailed to Gundogan's headed opener and had barely managed to venture out of their own half when Schlupp and Townsend netted in quick succession, giving the Citizens plenty to think about.
The early signs suggested it would be another comfortable afternoon for City, who have won 10 of their last 12 Premier League matches against Palace overall and 10 in a row on home soil in all competitions. Ilkay Gundogan ghosted in at the far post, profiting from some sloppy marking from Patrick van Aanholt, to head stand-in skipper Fabian Delph's diagonal delivery past Vicente Guaita.
Delph had earlier had a long-range drive tipped over by Guaita and both Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva also came close to netting, but a dominant City were left stunned when Palace netted twice in the space of two minutes and 42 seconds. After being given the chance to get a shot away by Kyle Walker, returning winger Jeffrey Schlupp drilled the ball across Ederson and into the far corner.
Conceding for the eighth match running may have left City's players rattled, but worse was to come as Andros Townsend scored a real contender for goal of the season - finding the back of the net from all of 35 yards with his volley - to put his side in front. City took time to regain any momentum after that second setback of the match, failing to register a shot of note in the remainder of the half.
MANCHESTER CITY SUBS: Muric, Danilo, Aguero, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Zinchenko, Foden
CRYSTAL PALACE SUBS: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Sorloth, Ayew, Puncheon, Riedewald
KICKOFF: Crystal Palace, leading 2-1 thanks to goals from Schlupp and Townsend, get us back up and running at the Etihad Stadium. Guardiola, somewhat surprisingly, has opted against bringing on De Bruyne or Aguero at the midway point.
Man City, like they did for large parts of the first half, have seen plenty of the ball across the opening few minutes of the second period. Walker takes an age to cross the ball and Meyer takes it off him to the dismay of the home fans.
MANCHESTER CITY SUB! Well that didn't take long! Five minutes into the second half and Guardiola has turned to Aguero for Otamendi, meaning a change of system. Sane's corner is powered wide by the head of Laporte.
PENALTY! Townsend heads the ball against the inside of the post, but Walker then fouled Meyer when attempting to get to the loose ball. A penalty has been awarded to the visitors!
GOAL! MANCHESTER CITY 1-3 CRYSTAL PALACE (LUKA MILIVOJEVIC)
That really was a terrible challenge from Walker, which has been further punished by Milivojevic. The Serbian has a good overall record from the penalty spot and picked out the side of the net with this latest spot-kick.
Four shots for Palace today and three goals. The only attempt they did not score from was Townsen's header, which hit the post in the build-up to the penalty. Man City are heading towards the rarest of home league defeats.
The atmosphere is incredibly flat around the Etihad Stadium - the home supporters cannot believe what they are seeing. Palace supporters can't, either, in truth. The away end is far from full, with many prioritising other fixtures over Christmas.
Delph is sloppy in possession and Guardiola is unable to hide his frustration. Palace's counter comes to a disappointing end, but so to does City's moments later as Jesus's shot is blocked on the edge of the box.
There is no pressure on Meyer as he waltzes through the box and gets a shot in. It is a bizarre one, because the ball did not actually go out of play when the ball boy took matters into his own hands and chucked it back to Ederson. A drop-ball is the decision, and Palace sportingly give it back to Ederson.
MANCHESTER CITY SUB! Aguero was brought on five minutes into the second half, and now here comes De Bruyne for a 30-minute run-out. Guardiola would have loved to have introduced the Belgian with his side in front; instead they are two goals down.
The strange thing is, City have not exactly been knocking on the Palace door since going 3-1 down. Guardiola has seen enough - Mahrez is about to come on for the home side's third and final change. It will be interesting to see who makes way - Sterling, perhaps?
Plenty of groans around the Etihad Stadium, with the champions looking a million miles from their usual selves. The Citizens are going to find themselves four points adrift of leaders Liverpool on Christmas Day, unless they come up with something special.
MANCHESTER CITY SUB! A cross from the right is cut out before Sterling can get to it. Gundogan's shot from range then flew wide of the target. Here comes that final City sub - Sterling, as predicted, is replaced by Mahrez. All-out attack for the hosts now.
Another cross comes in from Sane; another cross is blocked behind by Palace. This has been a terrific display from the Eagles, who will drag themselves further clear of relegation danger if they can see through the next 20 minutes.
The visitors are not exactly sitting back at the moment, getting forward as and when they can. City have barely threatened all half, with Gundogan's wayward shot five minutes ago the best they have mustered.
YELLOW CARD! A second caution for a Palace player today and a third of the season for Van Aanholt, who is penalised for going in late on De Bruyne. The free kick is around 25 yards out, but Sane looks as though he is going to take it on.
OFF THE POST! Sane does indeed take on the free kick, sending the ball up and over the wall but against the outside of the post. Desperately unlucky from the German winger, who has just about been the Citizens' best player today.
Hodgson has yet to turn to his bench, which includes six players with just one Premier League start between them this season. City have scored some vital late goals since the start of last season, but it is hard to see where a goal is coming from here.
YELLOW CARD! James McArthur is the latest Palace player to be cautioned. The midfielder clipped the legs of Jesus, but nothing came of the free kick. The visitors focusing almost entirely on defending now, with City finally beginning to turn the screw.
Mahrez's cross into the middle is a good one, but nobody in a sky blue shirt can get on the end of it. Tomkins and Sakho are getting on the end of pretty much everything in that Palace box, and now City have less than 10 minutes to score twice.
Sane is played in behind down the left, but the German completely miscued his attempted shot/ cross. Five minutes to go at the Etihad Stadium and Hodgson must now be confident of becoming the first Prem manager to take all three points from this ground since last spring.
GOAL! MANCHESTER CITY 2-3 CRYSTAL PALACE (KEVIN DE BRUYNE)
There is no way De Bruyne meant this, but nonetheless the Belgian marks his 150th Man City game with his first goal of the season. De Bruyne's intended cross from the right went right over the head of Guaita and into the top corner of the net. Game on?
CRYSTAL PALACE SUB! City are now asking serious questions of Palace's backline. No real surprise to see Hodgson finally turn to his bench, bringing on Ayew for Zaha in a like-for-like change up top. Can the visitors hold on?
CHANCE! Four minutes have been added on at the Etihad Stadium, so still time for City to salvage a draw at the very least. Palace are penned right in but are doing well to restrict their opponents. Until now, that is - Jesus heads over when picked out by De Bruyne six yards out.
YELLOW CARD! That really was a massive chance for Jesus, and you have to wonder whether City can create anything else in the final 60 seconds. Guaita has been cautioned for wasting time. Palace are on the brink of picking up a truly massive victory.
FULL TIME: MANCHESTER CITY 2-3 CRYSTAL PALACE
Crystal Palace see things through to pull off the biggest shock of the Premier League campaign so far! The Eagles trailed to an Ilkay Gundogan header with half an hour played, only for Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend and Luka Milivojevic to all net - the latter from the penalty spot - giving the Eagles some breathing space. That would come in handy as substitute Kevin De Bruyne netted five minutes from time, though it would prove to be nothing more than a consolation.
That concludes Sports Mole
's live text coverage of events from the Etihad Stadium. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here
, and you can follow live updates from Manchester United's trip to Cardiff City in the late kickoff right here
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