Crystal Palace vs Manchester City | Monday 14th March 2022, 20:00 | Sky Sports
I recently googled the UK’s toughest challenges, to discover the general consensus was that Berghaus Dragon's Back Race was probably number one – well, these guys clearly haven’t tried to discover value selections in a Premier League Manchester City game!! But hey, given the option of being trapped on a rock face lost in the mist – or poring over stats in the warm to find us an angle in or two – who am I to argue!
Title rivals Liverpool opened the weekend’s EPL action with a comfortable 2-0 win over Brighton to halve the gap at the top – the league leaders will look to end it by re-establishing their six-point cushion to the men from Merseyside with a victory here at Selhurst Park.
After a recent wobble, opponents Crystal Palace have got themselves nicely back on track losing just one of their last eight games in all competitions, lifting themselves clear of any relegation threat whilst progressing to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup where a very winnable tie with Everton awaits next weekend.
On the downside the Eagles have only picked up one point from their last four league games in front of their own fans and this is Manchester City – a team the home side have lost against in five of the last six encounters here, drawing the other in 2017.
However, Patrick Vieira masterminded a huge shock against his former side in the reverse fixture, Wilfried Zaha stunning the Etihad with the opening goal on six minutes before Conor Gallagher finished off a superb counter attack to put the game to bed two minutes from time.
That defeat was only the second in the league for Pep Guardiola’s men following on from Spurs’ opening day victory, a side who of course recently handed a third EPL loss to complete their own double – could history repeat itself? I don’t think so.
Since that loss to Palace in October the “Cityzens” have played 18 league games and other than the aforementioned loss to Spurs have only dropped two other points – a draw at Southampton, winning the other 16 fixtures scoring 45 goals, conceding just eight.
City have scored four or more goals eight times in the EPL from their 28 games played so far (29%) keeping a league high 16 clean sheets (57%) and have a phenomenal record when playing on a Monday, winning nine of the last 10 occasions they have done so, with an aggregate score of 23-3!
Having played around with a few permutations to get a Man City win onside, I ended up keeping it relatively simple – a win “to nil” is a best priced 11/10 and has landed in both the last two head-to-heads here.
One of those permutations was a card-based angle, or non-card, to be more accurate, with Martin Atkinson at the whistle but whilst crunching some numbers on his performances this season, I unearthed a line of attack I much prefer in its own right.
Despite averaging just 2.17 yellow cards per EPL game from his 18 appointments this campaign, the Yorkshire official certainly hasn’t been afraid to point to the spot – doing so on seven occasions to date which is the third most in the English top flight with an average of awarding one every 2.5 games.
The team who has received most penalty awards this term? Well, that would be Manchester City benefiting from a free hit from 12-yards seven times to date, with all of those coming in the last 13 games including three in the last five and for their part Palace have had five of their own with three in the last 10.
With pacy wide men and tricky intricate passing the norm for these two sides, coupled with a referee in decent form for awarding penalties – giving one to Norwich against Chelsea in his last appearance, this looks a good opportunity to add this bet to our portfolio.
Finally, my player focus falls on Joao Cancelo who I am hoping will have recovered from his illness to take his place in this one but with Pep taking the unusual step of holding his press conference for this game on Thursday there is not too much fresh information to go on.
The 27-Year-Old defender has made himself a crucial part of this Manchester City machine, looking equally at home on the right when needed but lauded for his performances in his more natural left sided position providing a consistent source of creativity, attempting more passes than anyone else in the league with 2164 – but it is the often overlooked part of his work that will form bet three.
In his five EPL appearances either side of being rested against Norwich, Cancelo has made 18 tackles at an average of 3.6 per game with stats reading (most recent first) 5-3-3-4-3 and all being well his direct opponent against the Eagles will be Michael Olise – and that promises to be a mouthwatering clash.
Last season’s EFL Young Player of the Season has definitely made an eye-catching debut in the EPL – displaying a willingness and more importantly ability to carry the ball up the pitch, utilising his quick feet and trickery to evade challenges – whoever is playing left back for the visitors, hopefully Cancelo, should have ample opportunity to rack up a decent tackle count.
This was the case last time out as Crystal Palace defeated Wolves 2-0, with Fernando Marcal ending on five tackles and over the course of the last five games left-backs against Olise have combined for 15 tackles at an average of exactly three.
Given the uncertainty around Cancelo’s recovery from illness you may want to wait for team news but I think he will either be well enough and start or not feature at all and so I am happy to put him having at least three tackles forward as my final selection.
Crystal Palace vs Manchester City – Manchester City to win-to-nil (11/10 Coral)
Crystal Palace vs Manchester City – Penalty taken (2/1 William Hill)
Crystal Palace vs Manchester City – Joao Cancelo 3+ Tackles (5/6 Sky Bet)