Crystal Palace will be aiming to maintain their four-game unbeaten run when they travel to the Etihad Stadium this afternoon to take on an in-form Manchester City side.
The Eagles have made a solid start to life under new manager Patrick Vieira, securing a memorable 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the opening weeks of the campaign, but their inability to build on that result will be a growing concern.
A defeat against high-flying Liverpool and four consecutive draws have followed that win over Spurs, providing hope and frustration in equal measure to those associated with the south London club.
However, the solution to Palace’s problems may be a rather simple one. Vieira has been unable to call upon all of the impressive attacking weapons at his disposal in the early stages of his Selhurst Park tenure.
Creative talent Eberechi Eze is still recovering from a serious Achilles injury, while talisman Wilfried Zaha has been unable to feature from the off over the last couple of weeks due to an illness. The Ivory Coast international played no part in the capital club’s trip to Arsenal but did come off the bench last time out as Vieira went in search of a winning goal.
Today, the Frenchman must unleash Zaha from the first whistle. City will be one of Palace’s toughest opponents of the campaign, and his presence on the pitch could be vital.
Previous Palace manager Roy Hodgson outlined just how important the £40.5m-rated wizard is to the Eagles, comparing him to the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Harry Kane.
“Many teams have a player of that type, a player who is a talisman and a player upon whom the team depends on,” Hodgson said back in 2018.
“Pep [Guardiola], [Mauricio] Pochettino and Jose [Mourinho] have to answer the same question about their Kanes, De Bruynes and Hazards. We are lucky to have a game-changer like they have.”
Therefore, Vieira has to select his most dangerous attacker from the start against City, with Zaha undoubtedly capable of causing Pep Guardiola’s charges some damage when on his best form.