Man City eager to close gap against an out-of-form Palace

With Manchester City keeping a second successive clean sheet, Manuel Pellegrini may continue with Martin Demichelis (right) alongside Nicolas Otamendi in the heart of defence.
With Manchester City keeping a second successive clean sheet, Manuel Pellegrini may continue with Martin Demichelis (right) alongside Nicolas Otamendi in the heart of defence.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

LONDON • It is a signal of Manchester City's inconsistency that they have not managed to string together two successive Premier League victories since mid-October.

Yet, it is a sign of the English top flight's unpredictability this season that, despite this, Manuel Pellegrini's side remain just three points off the top as they go into today's home match against Crystal Palace.

Wednesday's 0-0 draw at home with midtable Everton has not proved as costly as it might have done, with leaders Arsenal also dropping points in a 3-3 draw at Liverpool on the same night.

In addition, City kept a second successive clean sheet, suggesting that their defence is finding some semblance of stability in the continued absence of injured captain Vincent Kompany.

With centre-back Eliaquim Mangala still recovering from a hamstring problem, Pellegrini may continue with Martin Demichelis alongside Nicolas Otamendi.

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The manager has indicated that he will make some changes, with playmaker David Silva likely to be given a more significant role.

For Pellegrini, the priority is to regain the league leadership, although he acknowledges that positions only count for so much at this stage of the season.

"It's important to try to reduce the gap, but we are not going to win the title in January," he said. "I think it's important to be solid and a consistent team from now until the end of the season."

Palace were unbeaten in five games last month. But their form since the turn of the year has been less impressive, with successive league defeats sandwiching the FA Cup win at Southampton.

This week's loss to bottom club Aston Villa was painful, especially as they failed to score for a fourth successive league game.

The form book suggests chances should be even harder to find at the Etihad Stadium, but right-back Martin Kelly is confident the challenge of facing a side pushing for the title will bring out the best in Pardew's team.

"You get a little bit more adrenaline playing bigger teams. Playing City away is really difficult, but we'll go there determined to get a result," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Man City eager to close gap against an out-of-form Palace'. Print Edition | Subscribe