3 Key Battles That Could Decide Sunday's Meeting Between Crystal Palace & Manchester City

Premier League leaders Manchester City travel down south this Sunday to take on a Crystal Palace side who have lost just one of their last nine games, although the Citizens themselves are on an 18-game winning run; somewhat dwarfing the Eagles' achievements. 

Pep Guardiola's side ran out 1-0 winners last time out against Newcastle in a game where they were frustrated in periods by the Magpies, and Roy Hodgson would be wise to watch how Rafa Benitez set his side up in the hope of replicating their performance. 

Nevertheless, Hodgson can set his side up however he likes, the Eagles' individual quality doesn't come close to that of City's. 

Here are three key battles that could be decisive in the outcome of the game.

3. Wilfried Zaha vs Kyle Walker

When Pep Guardiola personally comes out and states that his side need to keep an eye on one player, you'd better sit up and take notice of said player: Wilfried Zaha. 

A rumoured target for the table toppers and most of the top six, Palace's academy product is playing the best football of his career, and is embracing the talismanic responsibility being placed on him at his boyhood club. 

Kyle Walker has pace in abundance and is also performing admirably this season, but in more games that not this season, the Ivorian is taking on and beating any fullback he comes up against. 

2. Raheem Sterling vs James Tomkins

After years of criticism for his inconsistent displays and ill-advised media interactions during his time at Liverpool, Raheem Sterling is silencing his doubters and making the footballing world sit up and take notice. 

The 23-year-old has always had the talent in his locker, but it is Pep Guardiola's direct coaching that is taking the England international's game to new levels. Sterling has hit 18 goals in 23 appearances so far this season, including a number of late winners for his side, making him arguably one of Guardiola's key components in his juggernaut side. 

A major factor in Sterling's end product is his consistency at getting inside the full back and popping up more centrally from the left side, meaning that Palace's James Tomkins will more than likely be the man directly facing the pacey forward. 

Not many have been able to stop Sterling this season, but if the former West Ham man can shackle the forward, Palace could snatch something from this ominous looking affair.  

1. Kevin De Bruyne vs Luka Milivojevic

Easier said than done in the very sense of the phrase, but if Palace can somehow stop Kevin De Bruyne from pulling the strings on Sunday, City's best player will be nullified and the Eagles may scrape a result. 

In reality, De Bruyne can't really be stopped, can he? Even when frustrated by Newcastle last time out, the Belgian still found time to assist Raheem Sterling for the winner, emphasising the fact that the former Chelsea man doesn't need many chances to make the difference. 

Palace's defensive midfielder Luka Milivojevic may be assigned the unfortunate task of man marking the elusive string puller, but must be wary of neglecting his responsibility elsewhere by focusing all his energy on the Belgian. 

If the Serbian international shackles the Belgian to some extent, Palace have a chance.