Eye On The Opposition: Crystal Palace vs Manchester City (31/12/2017)

Written by Jack Pierce

As challenges come, there are few more difficult than entertaining Manchester City right now.

15 points clear at the top of the table, showcasing the sort of football that dreams are made of and capable of rotating the starting eleven because of the fantastic resources available to the manager. Palace's task on Sunday is there for all to see.

Pep Guardiola was brought to The Etihad in order to implement exactly this type of dominance. Having tempted the Catalan to Manchester with promises of greater investment and the improvement of club infrastructure, Guardiola's first season was far from successful; to the point that questions were being asked of whether he should remain in his role in some quarters. This season has dispelled such ridiculous notions and the ease in which City are making their way through the campaign suggests City's bosses were absolutely right to seek Guardiola's appointment and make the assurances they did.

There's no need to tell you that Kevin de Bruyne has been the best player in the league this season, Raheem Sterling is having the season of his life or that Nicolas Otamendi looks like a centre half; you all know that. Guardiola must be applauded that he's got his players playing at such high levels but the players themselves should be praised too. 

Sterling is a prime example of someone who has clearly possessed the necessary talent since childhood, been able to make his way through the year groups into professional football but still faced harsh criticism from pundits and even managers. Under his current manager, Sterling has taken his game to a new level. His new found consistency has brought with it goals, assists and plaudits. He's been exceptional this season and the good work of Guardiola may reap rewards for England when it comes to next summer's World Cup.

18 league wins in a row is a Premier League record and an incredible feat. The only Premier League side they've not beaten this season is Everton and in all likelihood, the record is likely to be stretched to 19 on Sunday. Given the extra day's rest City have had and their ability to mix things up in terms of team selection on top of the gulf in class, anything other than a City victory would be a shock and a cause for many a raised glass across Norwood pubs.

Either way, most will raise a glass as we say goodbye to one year and hello to another and on that note, I wish you a happy new year.

Key players

Ederson

Few signings will have pleased Pep Guardiola as much as Ederson's. After the difficulties Guardiola had with Claudio Bravo, having signed him to replace Joe Hart, Ederson has arrived, assumed the mantle of number one and has looked assured, calm and the necessary quality.

While a more than capable goalkeeper, Ederson is also very confident with the ball at his feet - a trait that Guardiola is so keen upon. There have been passes played by the keeper this season that look as if they've been played by a highly rated ball playing midfielder.

A truly excellent signing.

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Fernandinho

If there is such a thing at City, the Brazilian is their unsung hero. Excellent in front of the defence or when required to slot into the defence, Fernandinho is also a significant contributor to the team's movement up the pitch.

Perhaps one of the more senior members of the team, the midfielder's influence is there for all to see. Things have been fairly serene for this City side in recent months but you can bet if things did take a turn, Fernandinho would be the first to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in.

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Leroy Sane

The German looked good at times last season but his new found consistency has taken Sane to the next level. His electric pace and ability to bamboozle defenders inside and out is similar to one of our own.

Sane is part of a fantastic attacking unit and with the options at his manager's disposal, he is often substituted early or even rested from the start but that doesn't reduce anything from just how good City's number 19 is.

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