Manchester City-Crystal Palace Preview
The top two in the Premier League will meet at Selhurst Park on Saturday, when upstart Crystal Palace host table-toppers Manchester City.
Manuel Pellegrini's City were in sparkling form prior to the international break, claiming the maximum 12 points and scoring a league-high 10 goals without conceding.
However, it is Saturday's hosts Crystal Palace (3-0-1) who have been the more surprising success story, scoring eight goals themselves in claiming nine points - including an impressive 2-1 victory over champions Chelsea last time out.
"I think we're good to watch," Palace manager Alan Pardew said. "We're different to City. We have more counter attacks, possibly, because they retain the ball sufficiently.
"City were really looking strong before the break, so it will be two teams looking to find the form they were in two weeks ago. Both us and Man City will be hoping to keep momentum."
Manchester City could introduce record signing Kevin de Bruyne, who is in line for an immediate start. The Belgian attacker is expected to replace Jesus Navas in the starting XI, completing a potent creative midfield trio alongside David Silva and Raheem Sterling.
"Only time can prove value for money," assessed Pardew when asked about City's summer additions. "I think they've purchased good players. Sterling gives them something different.
"Only a hand full of clubs can spend like that. But we're in the next batch of clubs behind them. You can only play 11. If you could field 20 players, City would win, but our starting 11 is very strong."
Palace's starting 11 may be strong, but they will have to find a way to deal with in-form Argentina striker Sergio Aguero. The striker will be full of confidence heading into Saturday's game following a terrific showing on international duty, where he scored twice and assisted on three more in a 7-0 rout of Bolivia before rescuing Argentina in a 15-minute substitute appearance against Mexico with a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw.
The hosts must also neutralise Yaya Toure, who has scored in each of his last three matches against the Eagles.
Toure will not be joined in midfield by another of the club's summer signings, Fabian Delph, after the former Aston Villa man picked up a hamstring injury in the opening minute of England's win over Switzerland in midweek. However, City have been boosted by the news that both Wilfried Bony and midfielder Fernando are close to returning from injury.
"I'm feeling much better and in a couple of days I will be stepping up my training programme," Fernando said. "On one hand, it's been great to see the lads playing so well, but on the other you are frustrated at not being involved.
"I can't wait to get my season finally up and running, and being pain free at last will be a huge relief."
Palace will take some confidence from their most recent result against City - a 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park in April. Jason Puncheon scored the winner in that match, and he is likely to continue in his new central midfield role this weekend. Bakary Sako, Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha will battle it out to start on the wings for a Palace side likely set up to hit City on the counterattack.
Sako bagged a goal and an assist from his left wing position against Chelsea, tormenting Blues right back Branislav Ivanovic. And the Mali international will be looking to exploit City in the same area - particularly if Bacary Sagna fails to recover from an ankle injury, which would leave Pellegrini having to start rookie Pablo Maffeo at fullback or use big-money summer signing Nicolas Otamendi out of position for his club debut.
The main selection dilemmas for Palace are in midfield, where Yohan Cabaye, Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak are all doubts.