The Manchester City FC take the Premier League lead with Saturday’s victory over Crystal Palace FC, though they will need Newcastle United to defeat Arsenal on Sunday if they are to keep the top spot in the standings. Despite multiple injuries, Manuel Pellegrini’s City squad was able to take the three points away and give themselves sole possession of the lead. The Manchester City lineup was a very different one than fans are used to seeing, but the bench players carried the day well. Amid rumors of an imminent transfer to Valencia, striker Edin Dzeko gave a solid performance and scored the only goal of the match.
With the injury to Sergio Aguero lingering, Pellegrini may well decide after Saturday’s performance that it would be best to keep Dzeko around. Even once City is closer to full strength, the ability to show different looks to opponents will only help in the pursuit of the title. The City squad proved that it has the depth to survive the run from here to May. If Arsenal cooperates and falls to Newcastle on Sunday, Manchester City will be positioned well to make that run. City is feeling far less pressure than many other clubs to make a spectacular acquisition during the January transfer window.
Saturday’s match had some tense moments for some members of the squad. Popular goalkeeper, Joe Hart, took a boot to the head early in the match. He had the wound just below his left eye tended to on the field to stop the bleeding, but Manchester City fans held their breath watching him play the rest of the match with the obviously painful injury. Hart showed his resilience, and did not allow the incident to impact his performance. It seems clear that Pellegrini made the correct decision by returning him to the starting goalkeeper spot.
The fact that Manchester City FC was able to take the lead in the Premier League standings without anything near full strength bodes well for them. With five months of the season yet to be played, however, it is a little early to start crowning them as champions. Even though it is only Arsenal who could take the top spot from City, several clubs are within striking distance. Almost all of them will be playing on Sunday, and that is both good and bad news for Manchester City.
With Chelsea and Liverpool playing against each other, only one of them could potentially come away with as many as three points. A tie would be ideal for City. Either of them, should they get three points, will be within a couple of points of the lead. Arsenal is already there, and even if they fail to beat Newcastle and take the lead back, they will still be within one victory of reclaiming it with the New Year’s Day matches still to come. Going into those matches, there could potentially be as many as six teams within six points of the top spot. No club is going to be able to feel comfortable with their position while so many are playing at such a high level. Manchester City FC is no longer in control of their own fate, and will have to take what comes on Sunday to see if they will hold on to the Premier League lead.
By Jim Malone