Manchester City need to respond to their poor run of form and establish themselves again in the race for a Top 4 finish in the Premier League, and the Sky Blues did just that.
On Saturday's match against Crystal Palace, City put on a show and simply demolished the Eagles with a 5-0 win that could have been 8-0. Sam Allardyce watched stunned as his strong defensive scheme was picked apart by City's passing and movement, and with many Sky Blue attackers in fantastic form, it was too easy for the hosts to destroy Palace.
City now sit in third place with three matches to go, and nine points from their final three games will give them automatic qualification to next season's Champions League group stage.
From the very first second, City established their domination in the game and kept putting pressure on Palace's defense until they cracked, and they cracked very quickly. Just two minutes into the game, David Silva played a wonderful ball over the top to Raheem Sterling, and after his cross was not cleared by the Palace defenders, David Silva scored the opener with a wonderful volley.
The hosts didn't stop after the early goal and continued to pressure the Eagles and recover balls in the opposition's half. Leroy Sané was very active early on, taking on his defenders and making dangerous runs off the ball. The German had two very good chances on the counter-attack, but was stopped both times by Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal.
The superstar of the first half, though, was David Silva: the Spaniard returned to the lineup and put on a clinic. He didn't just score the first goal; he owned midfield, playing some wonderful short and long passes to find City's runners and create dangerous chances. Pep Guardiola said prior to the game that David wasn't 100%, but he looked really fit in the first half and ran the show for City.
The visitors didn't bring any danger to the game until the 35th minute, when a great cross by Andros Townsed met the head of Christian Benteke, who looked set to score but saw his header be stopped by a wonderful save from Willy Caballero. Palace had another good chance when Patrick van Aanholt found himself isolated on the left side of the area, but his shot went over the bar.
City continued to move forward looking for a second goal before the end of the half, but couldn't find it and we went into halftime with City having to score a few more goals to confirm their domination and get the victory.
The interval didn't help Palace, who remained on the back foot and continued to be picked apart by City's attack. Yaya Touré moved the chains and controlled the flow, passing the ball from side to side and linking defense and attack with great precision.
City won a corner three minutes into the second half, and after Kevin De Bruyne's first cross went back to him, the Belgian put in a perfect cross along the ground to Vincent Kompany, who smashed the ball into the top corner and doubled City's lead with a sensational strike. The captain scored his first goal at the Etihad in two years, and all of his teammates congratulated him with some painful knocks on the head.
The second goal wasn't enough for the Sky Blues, who kept going forward looking for more. Gabriel Jesus had a very quite day in front of goal, but the Brazilian displayed wonderful work rate and pressured the Palace defense all game, and his constant activity earned him an assist when he stole a ball from Martin Kelly and served De Bruyne, who met the pass first time and curled the ball away from Hennessey for the third goal.
With a big advantage in the match, the Citizens controlled the game, keeping possession in Palace's half and not conceding any counter-attacking opportunities to the visitors. David Silva came off to a standing ovation from the Etihad crowd after 67 minutes, and the Magician looked like the Man of the Match.
But De Bruyne took over the game without Silva on the pitch, and after getting his goal and an assist to Kompany, Kevin began to create chance after chance with his passing and vision. He also took a wonderful free-kick that came off the crossbar, and the Belgian did not rest until he got another involvement in a goal.
He would get another assist, but it wasn't before Raheem Sterling got on the scoresheet: Yaya Touré played a beautiful pass to Pablo Zabaleta, who headed the ball into the patch of Sterling, and the Englishman scored a great goal with his left foot to make it 4-0 for the Citizens. 10 minutes later, in the last action of the match, De Bruyne played a great free-kick to Nicolás Otamendi, who joined the scoring party with a strong header past Hennessey.
The game came to an end, and Pep Guardiola smiled proudly. It's the biggest win of the season for City, and the five unanswered goals put City in front of Liverpool in goal difference, which could be crucial when deciding who finishes in third place. City players and fans are now confident in a Top 4 finish, and there's no doubt that three performances like this one in the final games will give them three great victories and Champions League football.
Man City: Caballero; Fernandinho, Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy; Touré; Sané (Navas), De Bruyne, Silva (Zabaleta), Sterling; G.Jesus (Iheanacho)
Goals: Silva (2'), Kompany (49'), De Bruyne (59'), Sterling (82'), Otamendi (90+2')
Palace: Hennessey; Ward, Kelly (Delaney), Schlupp, van Aanholt; McArthur, Milivojevic (Flamini); Townsend (Lee), Puncheon, Zaha; Benteke