Big night tonight, after the fun and games of progress in the FA Cup in a proper football ground without any of the Premier League banality. That said, Selhurst Park is a traditional and atmospheric footballing venue too, and City need to react to that accordingly.
Steve Bruce will make changes to the team but more than that, will make clear to them that a return to winning ways is necessary. City are well placed positionally but not on points, with the bottom half of the table squeezed to levels of tightness bordering on the idiotic. City have won one in nine and lost the last three in the Premier League and while dips in form are expected, they cannot be prolonged.
Losing to Norwich ten days ago means that defeat tonight is unthinkable. Zero points from these two games would be hideous notion, with February and March looking especially tricky, and beyond that, Palace are now a mean, ruthless, unglamorous outfit befitting of Tony Pulis, the man whose renowned brand of percentage football has had the desired effect since he took over.
Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long will start up front and there will be room again for Ahmed Elmohamady, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Curtis Davies and Allan McGregor. Those who impressed at Southend will undoubtedly be kept in the loop in south London tonight too as Bruce finds himself trying to put one over yet another former club.
City haven’t won at Selhurst Park for 28 seasons and drew four in a row prior to last season’s 4-2 defeat as both teams eventually gained promotion. Ex-Tiger Damien Delaney will be in Palace’s defence tonight but they are without Jonathan Parr, who was carried off in their FA Cup defeat at Wigan with concussion.
The bookies back Palace for this one at 6/4, with City – one away win all season and no goals in the last three Premier League games – priced at 2/1. The draw is 11/5. A draw may do just to stop the rot and keep Palace themselves at bay, but really it’s about time City won again.