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City v Palace: Talking Points

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Bacary Sagna and Andros Townsend

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Bacary Sagna and Andros Townsend

As Manchester City prepare to face Crystal Palace this weekend, Club journalist Rob Pollard has taken a look as some of the pre-match talking points.

1Jesus fever

His two-month injury layoff undoubtedly hurt City’s season – but Gabriel Jesus is back with a bang.

After his cameo against Manchester United that saw him score what we all thought was a famous late winner, only for the offside flag scupper his moment in the spotlight, he started last week’s game at Middlesbrough and scored a fine header that rescued a point.

He provides movement and sharpness in the box.

At the Riverside, it was Sergio Aguero who was detailed to drop deep and create, leaving Jesus as the out-and-out striker. It worked well, with both players heavily involved in City's best attacking moments. 

But Aguero, who has 13 goals in his last 14 matches, has been ruled out of this weekend's game with a groin problem, leaving Jesus to lead the line on his own. 

In just 423 minutes on the pitch this season, he’s scored four goals and assisted a further two. For a 20-year-old playing his first few games in a new country, it’s been a remarkable start and one that suggests he could go on to greatness.

2Silva service won't be resumed

As well as Aguero's absence, Guardiola looks set to be denied David Silva's quality for a third successive game. 

He left the field early during the defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last month and has missed the draws with Manchester United and Middlesbrough. Having only returned to full training on Thursday, Guardiola believes it's unlikely he will be ready to play on Saturday. 

City have missed his ingenuity and creativity over the past two weeks. He plays the game in cruise control, almost as if he has wing mirrors attached that allow him to see the game more clearly than anyone else. Always in space and seemingly unflappable, Silva, who is one short of 50 goals for the Club, is City’s orchestrator in chief.

His return can't come soon enough. 

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3Eagles soaring

Palace have taken 19 points from their last 10 Premier League games - two more than City have managed in the same period - including victories away at Stamford Bridge and Anfield, meaning they could become only the fourth team to win at Chelsea, Liverpool and City in the same Premier League season. 

Sam Allardyce has not only stabilised a side that was drifting towards relegation, he's turned them into one capable of beating the best.

The threat of dropping down to the Championship remains, but from the perilous position they were in six weeks ago to where they are today, their destiny in their own hands, is testament to their vast recent improvement. 

A win at the Etihad would all but confirm Premier League football for another season. 

Christian Benteke has been key to their revival - but he has failed to score a league goal against City in seven attempts and the Blues will need to keep him quiet again. 

4City need upturn in form

City have lost just once in their last 13 Premier League matches, yet have managed only two wins from their last eight, a run which has seen them draw five times. 

Guardiola knows his side need to improve quickly if they want to secure a top-four spot. 

5Vital opportunity

The race in the top four could hardly be tighter.

Chelsea’s place in next season’s Champions League is already secure and we can safely assume Tottenham will soon follow suit, leaving Liverpool, City, Manchester United and Arsenal fighting it out for the two remaining spots.

City are currently fourth, three points behind Liverpool with a game in hand and a point ahead of fifth-placed United. Arsenal are a further five points behind the Old Trafford side but have played a game less than the two Manchester clubs.

Of City’s four remaining games, three are at home and a win over Palace, who sit 16th, is vitally important to kick-start the winning run they so desperately need to ensure they qualify for Europe's elite competition for the seventh successive season.  

City have won eight of the last nine games against Palace, who haven't kept a clean sheet in the league against the Blues since 1993 when Steve Coppell was Eagles manager, and have managed two wins over them already this season. 

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Picture Special

Gallery: Silva trains ahead of Palace test