How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Crystal Palace

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistDecember 27, 2013

How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Crystal Palace

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    After coming through their toughest test of the season so far to beat Liverpool 2-1 on Boxing Day, Manchester City will now be eyeing top spot in the Premier League as they face their final match of 2013.

    With Arsenal not facing Newcastle until Sunday, a City win over Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium would take Manuel Pellegrini's men to the summit of the division for at least 24 hours, and whilst the likes of the Gunners and the Reds still need to convince many that they can sustain a title challenge, City certainly don't.

    But the Palace game is the club's second inside 72 hours, with Pellegrini facing the rigours of English football's festive programme for the very first time.

    The Chilean could make changes for the visit of Tony Pulis's Eagles, but he and the club will expect nothing less than three points.

    Here is the lineup that Pellegrini could pick.

Goalkeeper: Joe Hart

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    Joe Hart's return to Premier League action has been a successful one, with his presence in the win over Fulham followed by another start against Liverpool, where his crucial stop from Philippe Coutinho prevented the Reds from retaking the lead.

    The goalkeeper will now hope that his time away from the spotlight will have helped him regain his focus and see him get back to previous form.

    With World Cup year on the horizon, England's No. 1 is back to being City's.

Defence: Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy

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    Pablo Zabaleta was a surprise starter against Liverpool, as many had stated he was injured, but City's Mr. Consistent was flawless yet again.

    Martin Demichelis' run in the team came to an end against the Reds due to injury, with Joleon Lescott stepping in to ably deputise alongside goalscorer Vincent Kompany.

    Having started at right-back against Fulham, Gael Clichy could return on the left as Aleksandar Kolarov is rested.

Midfield: Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, James Milner, Jesus Navas

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    Fernandinho was excellent against Liverpool, with the Brazilian long since establishing himself as a cornerstone of the City team in his first season in England.

    Yaya Toure will of course be as vital as ever in midfield, but Pellegrini might see this clash as a chance to rest both David Silva and Samir Nasri during this hectic schedule.

    Should he do that, then James Milner and Jesus Navas could be asked to get forward and support the attack, with Navas continuing in the team having played against Liverpool and Milner getting a much-deserved Premier League start.

Attack: Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko

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    Pellegrini gave Alvaro Negredo the lone forward's role in the Liverpool game, but a return to a top two could spell another chance for Edin Dzeko here.

    The partnership didn't work at Fulham, where Dzeko was replaced before the hour mark, but here he'll expect to be given more opportunities and could thrive off them.

    The forward's long-term future might still be in doubt, and perhaps would be even more so if Stevan Jovetic was fit, but these are the games that he needs to shine in.

    In the in-form Negredo, he's got a pretty useful partner.

How They'll Line Up

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    A return to a front two and a rare start for Milner ensures that width isn't an obvious asset to this City team, with the onus likely to be on Navas and Clichy to provide it.

    Toure and Milner can make runs from midfield in the knowledge that they'll be protected by Fernandinho, with Negredo and Dzeko able to use their power and finishing ability to see off the Eagles.

    Ultimately any lineup that Pellegrini names should be good enough to win this game, with City fans no doubt expecting to see their team on top of the tree on Saturday evening.