Man City players can learn lesson from watching their own teammates before Crystal Palace trip

Manchester City aren’t used to the Monday night treatment, but that is their reality this weekend as they must watch all their Premier League rivals play before them for a change.

City usually get a primetime Saturday or Sunday slot if they are picked for television, with their last Monday Night Football clash coming 18 months ago for the first game of their 2020/21 season at Wolves when games were spread out due to Covid restrictions.

With Pep Guardiola’s first team keeping fans waiting for two more days to continue the title charge, there could be a risk of losing focus in the title race or letting whatever Liverpool do affect preparations. Instead of watching Liverpool at Brighton, though, there are plenty of other City players in action this weekend facing crucial games of their own that can set the right example for the first team.

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Starting on Saturday lunchtime, midfielder Claudio Gomes is on Sky Sports when his Barnsley side, stuck in the Championship relegation zone, take on leaders Fulham. Gomes has had a quiet season on loan in South Yorkshire, but has been getting plenty of game time as the Tykes battle for survival.

Gomes has started ten of the last 11 Barnsley games, giving him the regular playing time he has lacked since joining City as a highly-rated former PSG youngster.

Elsewhere in the Championship, there are three other City loanees taking part in crucial encounters for their teams in the 3pm kick-offs. Tommy Doyle, who missed Cardiff’s win at QPR last week with illness, will be hoping to return as they take on Preston, looking to move further away from relegation danger. Before that QPR game, Doyle had started four games in a row, scoring at Huddersfield as he impresses in South Wales.

Taylor Harwood-Bellis is another who would be expected to feature, having started all of Stoke’s fixtures since moving to the Bet365 stadium on loan in January. Although the Potters are on a run of seven without a win, Harwood-Bellis looks set to retain his place away at bottom side Peterborough.

Stoke are two places above Doyle’s Cardiff, and sandwiched between them in mid-table are Swansea, where Finley Burns will be trying to get some game time this weekend. The promising center-back has two appearances to his name, but has been on the bench for their last three games. They are at Blackpool on Saturday as Burns looks to make the most of his first spell away from City.

Down into League One, and two of City’s brightest young goalkeepers continue to make a name for themselves.

Gavin Bazunu, confirmed this week as Ireland’s number one for their upcoming international fixtures, will travel to Ipswich with Portsmouth. He has been ever-present for Pompey so far this season, although their boss Danny Cowley admits keeping him next season may be tricky if they can not get promotion.

Currently five points off the play-offs, a win against rivals Ipswich would be key in a late promotion push. Similarly, James Trafford’s Bolton will be hoping to kick on after some inconsistent form as he looks set to mind the goal when they host sixth-placed Plymouth. Wins for both City keepers would aid both in their respective sides’ hopes of nicking a play-off spot.

Further down League One, and Lewis Fiorini has been impressing with Lincoln, who are still looking over their shoulders to the bottom four. Fiorini has 29 appearances for the Imps and has caught the eye with some good performances. With a Saturday fixture against 20th-placed AFC Wimbledon potentially crucial in pulling clear from the relegation contenders, they could do with another impressive Fiorini strike to go with his three goals already this season.

If following individual players does not satisfy a City fan’s football fix, then the under-23s are at Crystal Palace on Saturday at 2pm in a copy of the senior fixture on Monday. Brian Barry-Murphy’s side will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League 2, with Arsenal and West Ham chasing them down.

That game could be significant to see whether any young players are involved, potentially ruling them out against Palace’s senior team on Monday night. If the likes of James McAtee, Liam Delap and CJ Egan-Riley are involved on Saturday, they are unlikely to be considered for big roles in the Premier League two days later.

And finally, on Sunday, City Women can take a huge step towards Champions League qualification by beating top three rivals Spurs in a clash live on BBC Two – the fourth time in as many fixtures the Women’s team have been live on terrestrial TV.

Victory would move City to within two points of Spurs, with a game in hand, and within touching distance of Manchester United, who start the weekend level with Tottenham. Gareth Taylor’s side should be full of confidence having won the Conti Cup last weekend, and will be hoping for another successful trip to the capital.

Not that Guardiola’s side need any reminder of the high standards set by their manager, if they are encouraged to watch any football this weekend it should be to support their fellow Blues who are fighting for various different objectives – and not Liverpool.

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