MANCHESTER, England (AP):
Crystal Palace, beware. The Pep Guardiola era might truly have taken off at Manchester City. For proof, check out City's opening goal against West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup in midweek.
City go into their home game against last-place Palace today on top of the English Premier League and having scored 16 goals in their opening five games. They have netted 17 goals in four games across three competitions in the past two weeks.
Palace, with no points and no goals so far, should be fearful.
"We should be embracing the challenge," Palace manager Roy Hodgson said yesterday, before adding in what could be the understatement of the season: "But, realistically, we know they have a better chance on paper than we do."
City have been here before under Guardiola. Last season, City even started better in winning their first six league games and scoring 18 goals in the process. They didn't win any of their next three games and eventually fell out of the title race after a poor middle part of the season, finishing in third place.
But this looks like a different City. Walker and Mendy, full backs who have been playing virtually as wingers, have added a completely new dimension to the team's attacks, and have the pace and energy to get back into defensive positions if City lose possession. They are huge upgrades on Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna, who were all in their 30s and were released in the off season.
The scary thing for Palace is that the 52-pass goal against West Brom was achieved by a virtual second-string team put out by Guardiola. The likes of Aguero, De Bruyne and Silva return for Palace and Guardiola said captain Vincent Kompany could be back after a calf injury.