Defending champions Manchester City will look to remain among the unbeatens on Saturday when they take on newly-promoted Fulham in the Premier League.
Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Key Stat: City have gone 11 matches unbeaten against the Cottagers, and they have won five in a row against their visitors.
Expert Verdict: Fulham have made a fine start to life in the Premier League after several years away, and there signings have proven themselves capable of getting up to speed. But they have yet to face a test like that of Manchester City, and they will constantly stretch and expose the Cottagers throughout the entire match. The Londoners are used to having possession, but they will have very little of that here, and they'd do well to stay within a goal or two.
Pep Guardiola has his few share of injury issues at the moment. Chief among them being Kevin De Bruyne, his midfield architect. Back-up goalkeeper Claudio Bravo also is set to miss out, along with unwanted center back Eliaquim Mangala and young center back Philippe Sandler. Right back Danilo is close to a return, but he isn't likely to start here.
Sergio Aguero is a man to watch. He's had a couple of weeks off after not playing for Argentina in the friendlies, and he will be licking his lips here. He crushes promoted sides to the tune of scoring 27 against them in 34 PL games. He has 12 goals in the last 11 against them. Benjamin Mendy is also a man to be wary of. The Frenchman is making up for lost time after missing all of last season. He's already picked up four assists, and he could easily quadruple that come season's end given all the firepower around him.
City have four wins and a draw in their last five matches:
2-1 home win vs Newcastle
1-1 draw at Wolves
6-1 home win vs Huddersfield
0-2 win at Arsenal
0-2 win vs Chelsea (Community Shield)
Defenders:Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy
Midfielders:Fernandinho, Mahrez, Silva, Sterling
Slavisa Jokanovic will be missing attacking midfielder Neeskens Kebano due to injury for this match. But there is good news for him in that center back Tim Ream, winger Floyd Ayite, and center midfielder Tom Cairney are very close to returns and could have a role to play in this very tough away fixture.
Raise your hand if you thought Aleksandar Mitrovic would be tied for the Golden Boot. Even at this stage, that's a surprise to say. The Serbian has found his feet with regular action, and has scored four times in four matches now. His service will be lessened in this match, but his presence in the air could really trouble City if Fulham get the quality service to him. Jean-Michael Seri, a supposed target for clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea in the summer, will have a huge role to play. He will have the unenviable task of cutting off the supply lines coming from the Citizens' extremely strong midfield.
Fulham have three wins, a draw, and a loss in their last five matches:
1-0 home win vs ATK (Friendly)
2-2 draw at Brighton
2-0 home win vs Exeter City (EFL Cup)
4-2 home win vs Burnley
3-1 loss at Tottenham
Defenders:Fosu-Mensah, Odoi, Mawson, Le Marchand
Midfielders:Anguissa, McDonald, Seri, Cairney, Schurrle
Like recent history, City have also dominated this tie. Overall, they have 24 wins, 11 draws, and ten losses to Fulham. Here's a look at the last five results:
Mar 22, 2014: City 5-0 Fulham
Dec 21, 2013: Fulham 2-4 City
Jan 19, 2013: City 2-0 Fulham
Sep 29, 2012: Fulham 1-2 City
Feb 4, 2012: City 3-0 Fulham
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Manchester City are at 1/10 to win, a draw is at 9/1, and a Fulham win is at 16/1.
Defending champions Manchester City have started this season just as you would have expected: unbeaten. They do have that tiny blemish of a draw with Wolves, but that aside, they have been dominant and look every bit as good as last season, if not better. Guardiola has even more tactical options now with Mahrez joining and Mendy returning at left back. If things don't work out for them, they can always play Jesus and Aguero up front and give teams huge headaches as a result. As things stand, they are in fourth on ten points, and with a win they could see themselves move to the top with the right results elsewhere. They do have a home affair with Lyon in the Champions League to look forward to on Wednesday, so that might be a slight distraction for them.
Fulham's return to the Premier League hasn't been a bad one. The Cottagers spent a fair amount of money in the summer, and so far it has done them well. They have four points from four matches, including a draw at Brighton and a win at home to Burnley. Those teams aren't the quality of City, but it will give them hope that they can at least stay in mid-table and away from the bottom. Since the loss to Spurs, they have gone unbeaten, so they will hope their form continues going to the always tough Etihad for this fixture.
Fulham have conceded nine times so far this season in the PL, the second most in the league, so City to score at least three is a pretty good bet.
City to score more than 2.5 is at ½ via Ladbrokes.
Aguero scoring the first goal is at 3.0 via Betfair.
The firepower that Manchester City have is just simply frightening. Even without their best creative force, they still have the ability to pick teams apart. That's what Fulham have the opportunity, if you can call it that, on Saturday. And they'll most likely have no answers for them.