Manchester City’s next Premier League match is against Crystal Palace, a side who have played a bigger role in recent title races than you might think.
Pep Guardiola’s side will travel down to Selhurst Park on Monday night to face Palace, a team that secured a shock 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium back in October.
With Liverpool having struck first with a 2-0 win at Brighton before City play in South London, City’s lead at the top of the table has been reduced to three points ahead of kick-off. That will pile the pressure on City, making the seemingly routine fixture a potentially huge one in the title race.
It won’t be the first time that Palace and their Croydon home will have played a part in determining the destination of the Premier League trophy.
Football is full of odd coincidences and Selhurst Park’s link with City is one of them. The stadium played host to two matches that swayed the 2013/14 title race in City’s favour.
Just two weeks after handing Liverpool the upper hand with a defeat at Anfield, City put in a gutsy performance at Palace in a 2-0 win. Edin Dzeko scored both of City’s goals, capitalising on Liverpool’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea earlier in the day to return the Blues to the top.
Eight days later Palace all but ended Liverpool’s hopes of wrestling the title back, completing an incredible comeback to hold Brendan Rodgers’ side to a 3-3 draw.
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Liverpool had led 3-0 with 10 minutes to go but three quick-fire Palace goals had Steven Gerrard on his haunches and Luis Suarez in tears. The draw meant all City had to do was avoid defeat to West Ham on the final day, which they did comfortably. ‘Crystanbul’ will always be fondly remembered at City.
In April 2019, days after suffering a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham in the first leg of that infamous Champions League quarter-final tie, City won 3-1 at Palace as part of an incredible 14-match winning run that saw them pip Liverpool to the title by a point.
Guardiola fielded a strong side despite the looming Champions League second leg, something which perhaps cost his side in Europe but kept the momentum going in their successful title charge.
The links between Selhurst Park and City extend beyond title races too. It was the ground that an 18-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho – the first academy graduate to play regularly for the first team in years – scored his first goal in professional football, seconds after coming off the bench as an 89th-minute substitute.
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His last-gasp winner sparked some of the best away-end limbs City fans have ever produced and prompted BBC commentator John Motson to frantically scramble for his notes having forgotten the youngster’s name.
And how could anyone forget the 3-0 FA Cup win in January 2017? Not particularly for the result but because one Blue in the away end streamed the entire second half on Periscope for the benefit of those at home, with the match not broadcast on TV. A man of the people if ever we’ve known one.
Safe to say that whatever happens on Monday, Selhurst Park will forever retain a special place in City hearts.
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