In a rather stunning scenario, second-place Manchester City are closer to sixth-place Crystal Palace in the Premier League table than they are to the top spot.
Back from the international break and looking to bounce back from another shocking Premier League defeat, Manchester City try to keep surging Palace from recording a third consecutive top-flight victory on Saturday at Selhurst Park.
Only eight matches into the 2019-20 season, City’s hope of repeating as Premier League champions looks in serious doubt. Sure, plenty can happen the rest of the way, but the Citizens (5-1-2) have already suffered half the amount of losses they had last season and are eight points back of unbeaten leaders Liverpool.
In fact, City are just one point ahead of third-place Arsenal and two up on followers Leicester City, Chelsea and Saturday’s opponent Palace (4-2-2). Manchester City find themselves in this predicament after an unthinkable 2-0 home loss to Wolves on Oct. 6.
It was their first league defeat at the Etihad since Crystal Palace won 3-2 there on Dec. 22, and the first time the Citizens failed to score at home in the Premier League since playing Huddersfield Town to a scoreless draw in May 2018. City, who also lost 3-2 at promoted-side Norwich City on Sept. 14, last dropped consecutive top-flight matches in December of last year.
“We go to Crystal Palace, which will be tough, but we have no choice – we will try to improve,” midfielder Ilkay Gundogan told Manchester City’s official website. “When you are in front (in the table) it always feels great – that’s why it’s a bit tougher to watch the table right now, as we are not there and there is quite a gap.
“But maybe we shouldn’t watch the table now. We will get a lot of opportunities in the coming months to influence that, but right now, it’s something we have to accept and something we have to deal with.”
Though City lost at home to Palace last season, it’s amidst a 3-1-0 stretch at Selhurst Park. Raheem Sterling (six league goals in 2019-20) bagged a brace in April’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace, whilst Gabriel Jesus also scored.
Luka Milivojevic posted the lone goal in that match for Palace, who have conceded just one goal whilst going 2-2-0 at home in top-flight play this season. However, their most recent league win came 2-1 at West Ham United on Oct. 5. Patrick van Aanholt scored on a 63rd-minute penalty to equalise and Jordan Ayew notched his team-leading third – and VAR-aided – goal in the 87th to go ahead.
“I think they’re working very, very hard to become a good team and to work together as a very good team,” manager Roy Hodgson told Crystal Palace’s official website. “To be honest, I think that it’s too easy to say: ‘you’ve seen nothing yet.’
“I think that we’ve got to make certain we keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years, and continue to do it well. And, to remain modest if we want to make sure this club stays in the Premier League.
“With every year it stays in the Premier League, it becomes stronger.”