Listen, no one likes the International Break. Players pick up knocks, the rhythm of the team is disrupted, and honestly, do you really need another reason to return to your family for a few hours over the weekend?
Manchester City find themselves returning to league play looking to continue their form that has seen them unbeaten and carrying a clean defensive record into September. Manuel Pelligrini received Barclay's Manager of the Month honors for August, and it can be added that City have never seen the top of the table in September in the team's long history. But it's not going to get easier, and it starts this Saturday with City looking In the rear view mirror with the second place Eagles of Crystal Palace on their heels. Palace, managed by Alan Pardew, have proven to be a formidable opponent for many clubs, with new signings and players who are physically imposing, Palace look to defeat City for the second straight time in their home ground of Selhurst Park this Saturday.
From the Manchester side of things, the most important point of concern is likely who will lead the attack. Newly signed Kevin de Bruyne will likely get his first start, and after his week with Belgium, who can blame Pelligrini for immediately injecting him into the team? David Silva is out for Saturday's match with a hopeful return against Juventus on Tuesday, so the larger question will be if De Bruyne is auditioning for a permanent role as the proverbial #10. One thing that was seen against Watford was during the second half, where Raheem Sterling moved to the center of the pitch, and Samir Nasri and David Silva were on his sides. It can be noted that David Silva's natural position is on the wing, and that is where he excelled during the week with Spain, setting up a beautiful assist to Jordi Alba and downright bossing the pitch. Sergio Aguero looked rather impressive on his break in games against Peru and Mexico, and while his goal production has been stunted to start the season, don't expect Palace defenders to take him lightly. Lastly on the offensive side of things, Yaya Toure seems to love Crystal Palace of late, scoring in his last three matches against them, including this goal, and this beautiful one. Palace will be without Joel Ward for the next few matches, so the speedier players for City have to be salivating, and the defenders will have one less threat to worry over.
On the topic of defense, Manchester City's outstanding backline will likely retain it's core as Mangala and Kompany continue to hold down the center of the pitch while Kolarov and the questionable Bacary Sagna have been nothing short of excellent on the outside. Newly arrived Nico Otamendi had a bit of a rough match during the week against Mexico and is still looking to break into the lineup. City will have their hands full with Palace's Bacary Sako, who has scored in his last two matches, and has given players like Branislov Ivanovic problems on the wing. Johan Cabaye is also projected to start, and he and Jason Puncheon's ability to be non stop engines in between the boxes will give Fernandinho and Toure quite a bit of responsibility if City are looking to dominate.
We know that teams managed by Alan Pardew will not fold quickly, nor easily. However, City with all of their firepower should come out on top of this match. But, the game has to be played, and with Juventus waiting in the shadows this Tuesday, Manchester City will have to remain in the form that has seen them remain in first. But one thing is for sure, we're sure glad football is back.