Manchester City will be at full strength when they taken on Crystal Palace today.

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Manchester City will be at full strength when they taken on Crystal Palace today.

The Saturday evening kick-off comes after England midfielder Phil Foden admitted to aggravating an ankle injury in the win over Newcastle last time out, although he has since been pictured in training.

“Unfortunately today I’ve kind of hurt it again but now I need to rest up,” he said. “We’ve got two days off now so hopefully I’ll have the chance to rest it.”

However, Pep Guardiola asserted that the issue has cleared up when he faced the media on Friday.

John Stones has also been involved in City’s workouts as he looks to return from a hamstring injury suffered in January, which cleared up sufficiently for him to make the bench against Newcastle.

Pep Guardiola is unlikely to rotate his side too much despite the upcoming visit of RB Leipzig in the Champions League, although the latest off-field issues for Kyle Walker may impact his selection.

As for Crystal Palace, Cheick Doucoure is suspended following his dismissal against Aston Villa last weekend.

Will Hughes, Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur will compete to add steel to the Eagles’ midfield with Wilfried Zaha likely to continue up front. Sam Johnstone and Nathan Ferguson are long-term injury absentees.

Predicted Crystal Palace XI: Guaita; Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Hughes, Lokonga; Olise, Eze, Ayew; Zaha.

Predicted Man City XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Silva; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish.

After their defeat at Aston Villa last weekend, Patrick Vieira’s side are currently on the longest winless run in the Premier League as they’re without a win in nine. They are struggling to score goals and they sit just five points above the relegation zone heading into a very tough stretch of games. Now would be a very good time for Wilfried Zaha, who has just returned from injury, to push them back into midtable as they have an easier run of games to finish the season with.

As for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, they are keeping the pressure on Arsenal but they are still five points behind the Premier League leaders with 12 games to go. City have not been at their silky best in recent weeks but they showed real energy and determination in their home win against Newcastle last time out. Can they keep grinding out wins? Probably.

We shouldn’t be worried about Palace getting dragged into a relegation scrap just yet. But with games against City, Brighton and Arsenal coming up in the next week, they could well be in the drop zone by the time the March international break arrives. It’s tough to see where their next win is going to come from but that usually means Palace will beat one of the big boys. They have a knack of pulling off a win when you least expect it. This season has been tough as Zaha has been out injured but he gave them a cutting edge in his long-awaited return at Villa last weekend. Remember: when these teams met earlier this season Palace were 2-0 up but an Erling Haaland hat trick led a stunning City comeback win.

In the here and now, City’s form players are scattered all over the pitch with Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish kicking things up a few gears in recent weeks. Rodri continues to control midfield, while a special shout out must go to Nathan Ake who has slotted in very well at left back. Since the World Cup Erling Haaland hasn’t quite matched his goalscoring record from earlier in the season but he always seems just five minutes away from the next batch of goals arriving.

Kevin De Bruyne has the backing of Pep Guardiola when it comes to playing his way back into form – but the Manchester City manager hinted that he won’t be guaranteed a starting spot if he isn’t playing at his best.

De Bruyne missed two games with illness recently and recovered to start at Bristol City last week, where Guardiola described his first half performance as ‘passive’, before an improved showing after the break that saw the Belgian score a wonderful goal.

However, De Bruyne appeared a little off the pace against Newcastle last week, prompting the manager to tell his talisman to go ‘back to basics’ in training this week. With City travelling to Crystal Palace on Saturday, Guardiola backed De Bruyne to bounce back from his minor drop in form.

“He’s always ready. Kevin, like with Gundo and John [Stones], are the players who remain from day one when we arrive,” Guardiola explained, while leaving open the possibility of rotation at Selhurst Park.

“I know him quite well and how important he is. At the same time there are moments, ups and downs, like happens with Phil [Foden] and other players, they compete with other players. In one part of the season one player can be better than the other and another can be worse, it’s normal.

“I try to decide the best to win this specific game, selection is always like this. In these seven years, Kevin has been Kevin and some more. All the time, when he didn’t play it was for rest or tired or injured.”

Guardiola has called the coming week ‘decisive’ in City’s season, with a trip to Palace their final Premier League game before the international break before the Champions League last-16 second leg against RB Leipzig and FA Cup quarter-final with Burnley.

After declaring De Bruyne ready for those fixtures, Guardiola insisted City’s only focus is on the trip to London to take on Palace.

“Absolutely not [thinking about the Champions League], we’re playing for the Premier League. Most important is the Premier League. Apart from when we come from one long week, good rest, two days off, try to play good. It’s not about thinking about Leipzig.

“Crystal Palace deserve a lot of attention for their qualities. [Jordan] Ayew, [Wilfried] Zaha, [Eberech] Eze, they have a lot of weapons up front. The quality they have up front is unbelievable. We have to pay attention, small pitch, the crowd support the team. [Joachim] Andersen incredible in the build-up and long balls. The set pieces, they score two goals here from set pieces. We have to be careful, the players know it.”

And Guardiola also touched on how City are still adapting to playing with Erling Haaland, and how his teammates will need more time to know when is the best time to look for their striker’s runs.

He said: “In some moments in the past we had Gabriel [Jesus] there, Sergio [Aguero], we didn’t have the attention to look for them a lot. Now we have to try to do it. Now we know he’s there, he’s a good target for us. The first vision has to be for him.

“Before was more right-left until the right moment. Sometimes when you are too quick you are less precise, lose the ball, allow the transitions for the opponent. This balance to find in the right way, because when he starts to run with the power, the tendency is to give him the ball because he’s going to score a goal.

“But what happened against Newcastle a few times, the transitions with Joelinton and the players they have. At the same time, it’s not just for passing to him, we did well against Bournemouth for example, this balance is about time. He gives us a lot.”

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