Crystal Palace-Manchester City Preview

The Associated Press

Manchester City will take the provisional lead in the Premier League on Saturday if they can maintain their 100 percent record at the Etihad Stadium when they meet relegation-threatened Crystal Palace.

City prevented Liverpool from retaining top spot with a 2-1 victory on Boxing Day, as first-half goals by captain Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo overturned a 1-0 deficit.

''That's the hardest game so far. Liverpool are a good team so it's great for us,'' Kompany said. ''It's a weird (title race) because all the teams started a little slowly.''

City made it nine wins out of nine at the Etihad, where they have outscored opponents 37-6. Manuel Pellegrini's side moved ahead of the Reds into second place, one point behind leaders Arsenal. The Gunners play Sunday at Newcastle United.

Palace boss Tony Pulis is well aware of the challenge facing his side, which has been outscored 14-5 in losing seven of nine Premier League road fixtures. Pulis displayed a keen sense of humour after the Eagles won their Boxing Day fixture, 1-0 at Aston Villa.

"It's a long way to go and it's a hard season and nobody knows that better than me," Pulis said. "We've got an easy game at Man City, when is it, in two days time, they're averaging about four and a half, five goals a game, so we know how difficult it's going to be."

Palace is one spot above the drop in 17th place on 16 points after responding to a 3-0 defeat to Newcastle on Saturday. Thursday's match seemed headed for a draw before substitute Dwight Gayle's 90th-minute strike gave the Eagles all three points.

"We've made up really for the performance at Newcastle and as I said to them afterwards, they owed themselves that just for that performance against Newcastle when we weren't at it," Pulis said.

Pulis will have Marouane Chamakh back from suspension for the first top-flight meeting between these sides since January 2005. City have won the last four meetings.

The Citizens are counting on their superior squad depth to give them an advantage during this holiday programme, and are fully focused on the next task after the emotional win over Liverpool.

"We need to think about Crystal Palace now," said defender Pablo Zabaleta, who returned Thursday from a hamstring injury. "We play in 48 hours. That is something incredible that just happens in English football but we must be prepared for that game. We know that when we play at home, we feel really confident and probably the manager will make some change for the game at Crystal Palace."

Pellegrini has numerous options to freshen up his big-spending squad. James Milner, Javi Garcia and Edin Dzeko all entered Thursday as substitutes while Gael Clichy did not play. Martin Demichelis could also return after he was left off the team sheet with a knock.

England international Joe Hart figures to keep his place in goal after a strong performance against the Reds in his second straight Premier League start.

This fixture pits the highest and lowest scoring teams in the league, with City banging in 53 goals and Palace propping up the table in that department with 12.

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