Manchester City find themselves just one point off the top of the Premier League table after a hard-fought home victory against Liverpool on Boxing Day. It was the first time City have been really tested in a match at the Etihad this season, but they emerged with three points after demonstrating the kind of character needed to be champions.
It was a victory that maintained their incredible home league record of nine wins from nine matches. They've scored a remarkable 37 goals in those games. It's the kind of free-flowing, attacking football City fans were promised when Manuel Pellegrini took charge over the summer, and at times they've looked unstoppable.
However, City can't afford to be complacent, including against Crystal Palace in their next home game. Palace are down in 17th place, but under new manager Tony Pulis, they've found some form, winning four of the seven matches he's been in charge of, including a 1-0 win at Villa Park on Boxing Day.
Pulis has introduced a more pragmatic, direct style of football, as opposed to the possession-based approach Ian Holloway attempted to implement, and City have struggled when facing direct sides this season. Cardiff, Villa and Sunderland have all managed to cause them problems by peppering the City area with long balls and set pieces.
And both Pellegrini and Joleon Lescott have warned against complacency.
In his press conference immediately after the Liverpool game, Pellegrini said:
Palace are a different challenge but maybe everyone thinks we are going to beat them.
All the teams in relegation positions provide tough opposition.
We must now try to recover as soon as we can and we will see what happens on Saturday but I don't think it will be an easy game.
We will start talking about not making a mistake and thinking it will be an easy game.
And Lescott has sent an equally strong message to his teammates, telling the Manchester Evening News:
It’s all about recovering and going with a positive and professional attitude against Crystal Palace.
We are confident but not arrogant. We believe that we can be a match for any team if we apply ourselves in the right way and fortunately we have been doing that at home.
Make no mistake, Palace will be a very strong test. They’re coming off the back of a great win at Aston Villa. Their form has picked up since Tony Pulis has come in. He’s an experienced and organised manager so we know we’re going to be in for a game.
The good news for City is the possible return of Stevan Jovetic, the Montenegrin forward signed for £22 million from Fiorentina in the summer. According to Mike Keegan at the Manchester Evening News, Jovetic took part in the warm down after the match with Liverpool and could be fit enough for the bench against Palace.
He has had a horrendous run of bad luck with injuries since his move, making just five appearances in a Blues shirt. He was arguably the most exciting of all City's summer signings, and his return would provide a big boost to a side missing Sergio Aguero.
Palace will provide a very different kind of threat than the one Liverpool presented, but City must be on their guard. Anything less than three points would negate the result from Boxing Day—a result City worked so hard to secure.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.