Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) may have been the top points scorer in Manchester City’s win over Crystal Palace – but he was not the only midfielder to bring in double-figures.
Kevin de Bruyne (£9.7m) put himself right back on the Fantasy Premier League radar with an exceptional performance in time for the end of season run-in.
As we learned yet more about Pep Guardiola’s side at Crystal Palace, this Scout Notes article documents the latest instalment in an ever-changing picture at Manchester City.
Crystal Palace 1-3 Manchester City
Goals: Luka Milivojevic (£6.4m) | Raheem Sterling x2 (£11.5m), Gabriel Jesus (£9.9m)
Assists: James McArthur (£4.8m) | Kevin de Bruyne x2 (£9.7m), Leroy Sané (£9.3m)
Sterling was comfortably Manchester City’s chief goal threat in the 3-1 win at Selhurst Park. No player was afforded more big chances, and he was top of the pile for shots in the box and efforts on target too. That certainly bodes well for future attacking returns, but Sterling will continue to have rotation concerns hanging over him.
Despite playing 90 minutes in each of the last two matches, he was named in the starting line-up against Crystal Palace and completed yet another outing. With Manchester City currently 1-0 down to Tottenham Hotspur after the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, it seems highly unlikely that he will be left out of the starting XI for the second leg on Wednesday. That would mean five starts in a row for the Englishman ahead of Double Gameweek 35 when they host Spurs again. It will be interesting to see when Guardiola decides to hand him a rest.
At the very least, Sterling seems to be posing more of a threat than Sergio Aguero (£11.7m) who now has just one goal in the last four Gameweeks. Manchester City’s diminutive midfielder is also getting clear of the Argentinian for underlying statistics too, offering better minutes per chance, minutes per chance created and expected goal involvement (xGI) too.
Aguero continues to have his minutes managed by Guardiola too, without a 90-minute appearance since Gameweek 24. Obviously, that has helped him start more matches than most of his colleagues, but in games where he has not looked his best, like this one, it is frustrating for his owners that he does not stay on the pitch for longer. There were suggestions after the match that Guardiola had taken him off because of an injury, although the Manchester City manager has since confirmed that Aguero does not have a knock.
Coming back into the Fantasy conversation after an incredible performance is de Bruyne. He was easily the best player on the pitch at Selhurst, providing two incisive assists for Sterling and Gabriel Jesus (£9.9m). Amazingly, they were his first two of the season, but the fact that he has struggled with injury for much of the campaign it’s not a huge surprise.
Crucially, de Bruyne’s attacking returns against Crystal Palace were in line with the creative potential he has shown in recent matches. In the four outings in the build-up to Double Gameweek 34, the Belgian had created a chance every 18 minutes, so assists were certainly coming. With four efforts on goal at Selhurst Park, only Sterling had more shots than him too. With six starts in the last seven Gameweeks, and potentially a rest against Spurs given his absence on Tuesday night, de Bruyne could be a key Manchester City midfielder to own between now and the end of the season.
“The last three or four games the way (de Bruyne) played was incredible, we missed him a lot. He has the ability and vision to see passes that other human beings are not able to watch. With him around, our paces and passes in front – especially in the final third – are incredible and today he was so committed to defensive work, winning duels and being in that position. And of course, he is fresh mentally in the legs in those situations. That’s why he made not just the two assists that are so important but in all the other situations that we needed him.” – Pep Guardiola
Given that he missed the Champions League quarter-final first leg, it was no surprise to see Leroy Sané (£9.3m) in the starting line-up at Palace. He has worked his way back into consideration for Premier League matches it seems, with starts in both of the last two matches, after just three appearances between Gameweeks 25 and 32. Crucially, he has attacking returns in both of those, a goal against Cardiff and an assist at Selhurst Park.
The fact that he was able to produce a decent attacking performance despite sharing the left-flank with Benjamin Mendy (£6.1m) is worthy of note. The Frenchman was making his first league start since November and enjoyed nothing more than a solid afternoon. There was some overlap with Sané, but it was mainly the German who provided the width down that side of the pitch.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Bernardo Silva (£7.6m) was back in the side overcoming his yellow flag. He was named among the substitutes and came on for David Silva (£8.5m) in the second half. Meanwhile, Fernandinho (£5.3m) missed out with what Guardiola described as a “short-term” injury which could also make him absent for midweek Champions League action. However, Manchester City did not particularly miss the Brazilian with both de Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan (£5.5m) providing a decent screen for the back-four.
“Yes. (Fernandinho) finished bad against Tottenham. Today he is not fit. It’s short-term.” – Pep Guardiola
Crystal Palace certainly made themselves harder to beat than some were expecting pre-match. They were without James Tomkins (£4.3m) and Mamadou Sakho (£4.9m) and had to field Martin Kelly (£3.9m) and Scott Dan (£4.4m) at centre-back.
The injury problems mounted for the Eagles in the first half when Jeffrey Schlupp (£4.5m) was forced off with a muscle problem. He was replaced by Cheikhou Kouyaté (£4.7m).
The interesting line on Crystal Palace’s attack was that Michy Batshuayi (£6.5m) was benched for Christian Benteke (£6.3m) to get his first start since Gameweek 26. Roy Hodgson explained that he wanted a player who could hold the ball up for his side, which the Belgian did admirably against formidable opponents. The Eagles’ manager also cited Batshuayi’s status as a loan player as a reason for dropping him to the bench, so it will be intriguing to see if that has a prolonged effect on his place in the team as the season winds to a close.
Crystal Palace XI (4-5-1): Guaita; van Aanholt, Dann, Kelly, Wan-Bissaka; Zaha, Schlupp (Kouyaté 22′), Milivojevic, McArthur (Sako 85′), Townsend (Meyer 77′); Benteke.
Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Mendy, Laporte, Kompany, Walker; Gündogan, de Bruyne; Sané (Stones 87′), D Silva (B Silva 65′), Sterling; Aguero (Jesus 75′).