BY SAM SMITH
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson reckons no professional footballer should ever shy away from the challenge of facing the world’s biggest clubs .
The 71-year-old takes his side to Manchester City today as they prepare to face a tough Christmas period that also involves fixtures against fellow relegation rivals Cardiff City, and top four hopefuls Chelsea.
“The players certainly should enjoy the challenge of going to a team like Manchester City. It’s very difficult to talk for other people,” he responded when asked whether his players were excited to travel to the reigning Premier League champions.
“I’ve seen no lack of enthusiasm or excitement in the training sessions so if they aren’t excited for the game then they have disguised it very well. The crux is that if you’re in this league, and we are very proud and pleased to be in this league, then you are going to play 38 games. Some of which you have to hold your hands up and say ‘well this is going to be a very tough fixture’.
“The fact is that you get the opportunity to travel to these big teams, some of the very best in the world, play against some of the best players and play in some of the very best arenas in front of some massive crowds and on television all around the world.
“I would be disappointed if there were any footballer out there – let alone a Crystal Palace player – who didn’t think ‘right, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s Manchester City, a fantastic arena, a fantastic crowd, millions of people are going to watch me play today. This is what I became a professional football to get’.”
City have lost just once this season, against Chelsea two weeks ago, but are unbeaten at home since they lost the Manchester derby in April. Pep Guardiola’s side remain favourites to retain the league despite trailing Liverpool by a point.
Hodgson said: “They have an outstanding team – ours is good but not quite as outstanding. We played them in my third game and got beat 5-0 up there but we welcomed them back to Selhurst around this time last year and got a 0-0 draw.
“We even gave them the free hit of missing a penalty in the last minute. That was extremely generous of us.”
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