This is perhaps the first really sticky patch Crystal Palace have experienced since Alan Pardew took charge last January. Winless, and indeed goalless, in their last four games Palace head to the Etihad to take on Manchester City with a number of issues to resolve.
Their 2015 form is yet to be replicated this side of the New Year and they appear to have hit the buffers. It is the first time since 1998 that the club have failed to score in four successive Premier League games as they prepare to face a City side against whom they have failed to score in four of the last five league meetings.
It is perhaps testament to their start to the season that, despite the recent blip, Palace remain firmly in contention for a European place. Currently eighth, The Eagles are just five points adrift of Tottenham in fourth in this highly competitive Premier League season where only nine points separate fourth from 13th.
Pardew says that they are looking at adding to their attacking options in this window but believes that the goals will come again soon.
“We’re not as offensively positive as I’d like us to be at times,” Pardew told his press conference on Friday.
“There’s been a lot of reasons for us not scoring. We played a Premier League team in the FA Cup who were desperate to win, like us. We scored goals there.
“You get runs like this during a season. It’s about keeping that balance. Players coming back will give us confidence.
“We are trying to bring a striker in, whether it’s permanent or on loan. You can’t dismiss anyone. You have to think of all the strikers who are available. Emmanuel Adebayor’s in that group. Not just for us, but for plenty of Premier League clubs.”
Off the back of their disappointing run, Manchester City are perhaps the worst possible opponents for Crystal Palace. The Premier League’s top scorers have already beaten Palace twice this season, including a 5-1 victory in the League Cup, and have won six of the seven Premier League meetings between the two sides.
But City have problems of their own. The goalless draw with Everton in midweek was the first time they have failed to score at home for almost a year and they have slipped to third in the table behind Arsenal and Leicester. Injury concerns are mounting while manager Manuel Pellegrini has the look of a man who knows he is the keeping the seat warm for someone else.
And The Eagles can take heart from their impressive away form this season. Prior to defeat against Villa on Tuesday they had the best away record in the league despite keeping just two clean sheets from their last 16 away games. Pardew is aware of the threat of Manchester City but says his side want to keep causing upsets.
“Villa was one of the few games this season where we’ve not played well,” Pardew said.
“But we’ve only chased two games: City in the Cup and Chelsea at home. We don’t tend to chase games.
“We’ve got good players, good defensive structure and a good mentality. We stay in games. If you don’t concede you stay in the game.
“City are a team that you have to demand 100% concentration. They have that quality. They may find it difficult and we’ll put pressure on them to beat us. That may help us.
“We want to keep upsetting the odds, and this would be upsetting the odds if we could beat City.”
Yaya Toure is a persistent thorn in the side of Crystal Palace having scored in four of his last five matches against the Eagles. And the Ivorian has been impressive of late, recapturing some of the form that deserted him for much of last season. He has scored three goals in his last five league games and is the man City look to build their midfield around.
Connor Wickham is set to return to the Palace starting lineup and, given the lack of goals recently, Pardew will be looking to him to lead the line and provide a goal threat. He is not a prolific scorer but is crucial to the way Palace look to play away from home given his ability to hold the ball up and allow the pacey, creative talents around him to flourish. Palace need a big performance from Wickham on Saturday.
Skipper Vincent Kompany is still missing for City and may not return until the back end of the season. There are also injury concerns over Fernandinho, Wilfried Bony, and Eliaquim Mangala while Samir Nasri is also still unavailable.
Yannick Bolasie is still three or four weeks away from making a return while Dwight Gayle probably won’t be available until next weekend. Pardew hinted that Bakary Sako, Marouane Chamakh and Wickham will all be involved as the trio need to gain match fitness.
Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace