How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Crystal Palace

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How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Crystal Palace
Clint Hughes/Getty Images
Crystal Palace are a tough side to play in the best of circumstances.

Lately I cannot get "Under the Pressure" by the War on Drugs out of my head. Maybe it is because the lyrics weave in and out of Manchester City's plight toward the end of a long, uneven season.

Well the comedown here was easy
Like the arrival of a new day
But a dream like this gets wasted without you

It was all too easy when Manuel Pellegrini took over from Roberto Mancini promising attractive, entertaining football. City blasted Newcastle United in the season opener at the Etihad in a match that was not nearly as close as the 4-0 scoreline suggested.

Except City lost star centre-back and captain Vincent Kompany to injury in that match. City were therefore forced to start midfielder Javi Garcia at centre-back in subsequent matches that included a loss at Cardiff City, a then newly-promoted side who would be quickly returned to the Championship if the season ended today.

Holding over like an illusion 
When it all breaks down and we're runaways
Standing in the wake of our pain

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Pellegrini will have to work magic over City's last four matches.

Kompany's injury was followed in subsequent months with knocks to Stevan Jovetic, Matija Nastasic, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva among others.

Pellegrini's goal-happy club were always able to score goals, but their inexcusable weakness on the defensive line cost them nearly a dozen points when they failed to earn results at Aston Villa, at Sunderland, at Chelsea and at Norwich City.

By the time City got their legs back under them, their margin for error was wholly gone. They responded with a splendid unbeaten two-month stretch, but City had done so much previous damage to their point total that even that wonderful work did not separate them from the other Premier League contenders.

You were raised on a promise
To find out over time
Better come around to the new way
Or watch as it all breaks down here

City picked a horrid time finally to stumble in the league. Their loss at Liverpool, coupled with their shaky draw at home to Sunderland, propelled the Reds well clear of City at the top of the table.

Realistically, City will need to win their last four matches and see Liverpool drop points to have a chance to steal the Premier League title from Steven Gerrard's hopeful clutch. As one of City's remaining matches is against Everton at Goodison Park, things look reasonably bleak for the Sky Blues.

And yet.

Under the pressure is where we are
Under the pressure, yea it's where we are babe

Liverpool last won the First Division in 1989-90, and they have never won the Premier League. Stranger things have happened than this defensively questionable Liverpool side losing to Chelsea at Anfield and/or drawing with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. 

Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Pulis' sides are notoriously difficult to play offensive football against.

It just figures that City have to visit Selhurst Park first. The last thing Pellegrini and his exhausted side need to deal with right now is a Tony Pulis side that will test City physically and dependably keep their shape.

A lot of the air could come out of City's balloon if Liverpool beat Chelsea before City even line up to take on Crystal Palace. But imagine how City's spirits will be lifted if Chelsea end Liverpool's now absurd 11-match winning streak in the league.

If Liverpool end the season on a 14-match winning streak, City can do nothing but nod with respect and hope for better times in 2014-15.

Until then, though, Pellegrini and City have to keep whatever pressure they can on Liverpool by winning every match they can.

City's predicted XI against Crystal Palace: Joe Hart; Aleksandar Kolarov, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta; Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, James Milner; Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko.

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