UEFA Champions League

Crystal Palace-Manchester City Preview

For one match at least, all was right with Crystal Palace. There was the emotional return of a crowd favourite and, more importantly, a victory to advance to the fourth round of the EFL Cup.

Reality, though, looms for Roy Hodgson and the Eagles on Saturday in the form of imperious and table co-leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Crystal Palace (0-0-5) have made history for all the wrong reasons in their disastrous start. A manager has already been sacked, and they are the first team in the history of the English top flight to start a season with no points and no goals through five matches.

The Eagles may have been caretaker manager Roy Hodgson's boyhood team of dreams growing up since he lived barely down the road, but there has been little in the way of shaking free from this nightmare start. Every other Premier League side has at least one victory, and Palace's minus-8 goal difference is joint-worst with Everton.

That could be why Tuesday's 1-0 victory over new boys Huddersfield Town was all the sweeter for Hodgson and his side. Bakary Sako's header in the 12th minute proved to be the difference, and the Eagles then got a somewhat favourable draw for the round of 16 the following day, when they were slotted for a road match against Championship side Bristol City next month.

"You don't repair the damage we've suffered overnight; it's going to be a long, hard process, but I know there's light at the end of the tunnel and saw some shards tonight," the gaffer told Palace's official website. "In the second half I was pleased that when the game got a bit tougher we had to dig in, fight, chase and throw ourselves in the way of shots, and we did that too."

The match marked the return of midfielder Papa Souare, who had missed nearly a year of play due to a broken thigh and broken jaw suffered in a car crash outside London. The Senegal international also missed three managerial changes by Palace in that span, but he was pleased with his first match with the senior side.

"It feels great and I am very happy to be running on the pitch today, but I am also pleased we got the win and it's one that makes me very happy for the fans," Souare said. "I am just taking my recovery step by step. This cup tie was 45 minutes playing at this level, so I am just working hard day to day and trying to get my fitness back."

Palace, however, can ill-afford to linger on this match given their next two are against both Manchester sides who are very in form on the road. The Eagles then come out of the international break to face reigning champions Chelsea, who have righted themselves since a season-opening shock home loss to Burnley.

First up are Manchester City (4-1-0), who are listed ahead of Manchester United atop the table due to alphabetical order since the two sides are level on goal difference and goals scored. After smashing six by Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday, the goal-scoring pace slowed Wednesday at The Hawthorns, but Leroy Sane's brace on either side of halftime was enough to push City by West Bromwich Albion 2-1 and into a round of 16 EFL Cup match at home versus Championship side Wolverhampton.

"I thought we played very well in the first half when we scored, and probably should have gone into halftime two or three goals ahead with the chances we created," said manager Pep Guardiola, whose team connected on 54 passes in the build-up to Sane's goal in the third minute.

"It was a tough, tough game - away to West Brom is so difficult and they played with all their first team squad, but we are so happy to win and now play our next game at home."

Sane was one of eight changes Guardiola made from Saturday's win, highlighting the staggering depth City have. There were some nervous moments though, as Ilkay Gundogan, still barely 100 percent after missing nine months with a ruptured cruciate, was removed just shy of the hour mark after a heavy collision but is expected to be OK.

"I suffered for Gundogan in that moment when he was on the ground," Guardiola told The Times. "At that moment, you think of the wrong situations, you cannot imagine what it is like to be out months fighting every day alone with the physio, and come back and to be injured.

"In that moment, it's so tough to accept. It's football and fortunately, it's not serious."

Sergio Aguero's hat trick against Watford gave him 175 goals with Manchester City, two shy of matching Eric Brook for the top spot in club history. Aguero, who has a team-high six goals in all competitions, has two in five lifetime matches against Palace, bagging a brace in a 4-0 victory Jan. 16, 2016.

City swept to victory in all three matches against Palace last season, including a 5-0 thrashing in the corresponding fixture to make it six wins on the bounce in all competitions. The Sky Blues outscored the Eagles 10-1 in those three victories and have won their last six at home in all competitions.

Palace have been outscored 22-3 at Manchester City in the Premier League era, with Damien Delany's consolation goal of a 5-1 defeat in the 2015 League Cup their only goal in five matches at the Etihad.

Updated September 21, 2017

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2018 by STATS.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.