MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Gabriel Jesus’ return has come at a good time for Manchester City as they seek to move closer to Champions League qualification by beating Crystal Palace at home on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
The Brazil striker, 20, has made two appearances since recovering from a broken foot sustained at Bournemouth in February.
Having seen a goal disallowed in a 0-0 draw against Manchester United, he grabbed a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough last weekend after being promoted from the bench to the starting line-up.
With Sergio Aguero struggling to recover from a groin problem, there is every chance that Jesus will start again on Saturday as City look to consolidate their top-four position.
They are just one point clear of fifth-place Manchester United, who visit out-of-form Arsenal on Sunday, and manager Pep Guardiola knows there is little room for error with only four league matches to play.
Guardiola’s season has hit trouble lately, with those two league draws following an FA Cup semi-final defeat against Arsenal at Wembley.
Indeed, City have won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions.
The manager, though, has been lifted by the prospect of David Silva’s return from a knee injury sustained during the Wembley defeat.
The Spain playmaker has been one of City’s most consistent performers this season and appears to be ready for a comeback, having joined in with full training on Thursday.
It has been a tough first year in England for Guardiola, who will finish a season without a trophy for the first time in his coaching career.
But whatever the next few weeks bring for City, captain Vincent Kompany believes the club is heading in the right direction.
“Finish strongly now and we give ourselves something to look forward to next season because you want to be in four competitions,” Kompany said.
“Sometimes exceptional seasons are built on seasons like this. The mood’s not great because we are at that time in the season where we need to win games and it didn’t happen on Sunday (at Boro).
“Now it’s a case of having to finish the last four games really strongly. There is not one single doubt in our minds that we’ll get the job done.”
Palace manager Sam Allardyce admitted his side’s heavy schedule caught up with them when they lost 2-0 at home to Burnley last weekend, leaving them on 38 points.
Allardyce believes his side will avoid getting drawn back into the bottom three, although he has conceded the Eagles need one more victory to erase any lingering relegation fears.
Recent successes at Chelsea and Liverpool, and the home win against Arsenal, mean Allardyce’s side will head to the Etihad Stadium hopeful of getting something from the game.
Anything less, and the manager admits the pressure could build ahead of the following weekend’s visit of Hull City, currently positioned four points behind the south London club.
“We can’t afford to make the same sort of mistakes we did against Burnley and we will give it our best shot,” said Allardyce.
“We will try our best next week and then it could be a very nervous game here against Hull probably.”
Palace’s improved run since Allardyce took charge has increased expectations about the club’s prospects for next season.
Record signing Christian Benteke says he does not expect Palace to be involved in another survival battle.
“It wasn’t the plan when I came, to fight relegation,” said the Belgium international. “Next season we have to aim for the top half of the Premier League table.”