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Manchester City can close the gap at the top of the Premier League with a win
Crystal Palace are in danger of being dragged into this season’s relegation battle
Manchester City should have too much quality for Crystal Palace on Saturday
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Crystal Palace are struggling for goals and the Premier League champions stand a good chance of keeping a clean sheet in the late kick-off on Saturday.
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Arsenal are not going to give up easily. The Premier League leaders, who are targeting a first title since 2004, left it late to beat Bournemouth last time out, but a last-gasp 3-2 victory maintained their five-point cushion at the summit of the standings.
Since Manchester City triumphed 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium in a rearranged fixture last month, Arsenal have won four games on the spin. This team may lack experience of challenging for major trophies, but they are showing significant steel and resolve in the title race.
But do not rule City out of it yet. They have a deeper squad than Arsenal and know what it takes to get over the line in close head-to-head clashes like this. A five-point gap is surmountable, especially as the two teams at the top still have to face each other at the Etihad Stadium.
City, for their part, look to have turned a corner after away losses to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. They have taken 13 points from a possible 15 since then, and even in a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest they were hugely unfortunate to not emerge victorious.
Arsenal will hope that City ultimately get distracted by other competitions. The Champions League is the trophy they desire most, having never won it before in their history. City are - once again - the favorites with the best online sportsbooks, and they may choose to prioritize the continental competition over the Premier League when it comes to the crunch.
But City have grown so accustomed to ending seasons as the English champions that they will not give up their title easily. Arsenal are not in action until Sunday, so this is a chance for Pep Guardiola’s men to close the gap to two points and pile the pressure on Mikel Arteta’s side.
Crystal Palace are sleepwalking into trouble. No team in the Premier League has a longer active winless streak than Patrick Vieira’s charges, who have failed to emerge triumphant in any of their last nine top-flight games. Add in a home defeat by Southampton in the third round of the FA Cup and this has been a miserable campaign for the Eagles to date.
Palace might be up in 12th place but they are very much involved in the relegation battle. The bottom half of the table is extremely congested, so much so that Palace are only five points above the dreaded dotted line heading into the weekend.
Things may well get worse before they get better. Palace are huge underdogs for Saturday’s clash with Manchester City. On Wednesday they face a Brighton & Hove Albion team that is in the mix for Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League qualification. Next weekend brings a trip to Arsenal.
An optimist would point to the fact that most of Palace’s games are competitive. They have held Manchester United, Newcastle United and Liverpool to draws since the turn of the year. In their nine games since then, only once have Palace been beaten by more than a one-goal margin.
Yet only three teams have won fewer games than Vieira’s side, and the Frenchman could start to feel the pressure if his team slips closer to the relegation zone. If their winless streak continues for much longer, Palace could start to tumble down the table.
Manchester City will have half an eye on Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against RB Leipzig, but that is unlikely to have too much of an effect on the team Guardiola selects for Saturday’s showdown at Selhurst Park.
City have considerable strength in depth within their ranks, and there are a number of changes they could make without significantly weakening the collective. Moreover, Guardiola has no fresh injury concerns to deal with, with Phil Foden set to be available after a knock.
Crystal Palace gave City a scare in the reverse fixture, storming into a 2-0 lead at the Eithad before going down 4-2 at the end of August. They would do well to score even once on Saturday, never mind twice.
No team in the Premier League has scored fewer goals from open play than Palace, who ranks second-bottom for expected goals, a measure of chance quality. Wilfried Zaha, a talismanic figure for the Eagles, is fit again, but even that might not be enough for the hosts to find the net.
This promises to be a reasonably comfortable match for City, who will be keen to move within two points of Arsenal in first place. Back an away win to nil in this one.
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Teams: Crystal Palace vs Manchester City
Location: Selhurst Park, London, England
Date and Time: Mar. 11, 2023, 10.00 a.m. EST
How to Watch: USA Network, fuboTV
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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