London (AFP) – The Premier League season is only four games old, but ahead of Saturday’s home game with Bournemouth, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City already appear the team to beat.
Last weekend’s impressive 2-1 derby win at Manchester United left City with the only 100 percent record in the division and they followed it up with a classy 4-0 Champions League victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach.
The Gladbach game was held back 24 hours due to a ferocious rainstorm on Tuesday, but Ilkay Gundogan, who made his debut in Wednesday’s rearranged fixture, does not believe it will have an adverse effect.
“We are all professional enough to handle such situations and we are all used to playing Wednesday-Saturday,” the Germany midfielder said in a video interview posted on the City website.
“It maybe makes a small difference, but we are professionals and we always try to do our best. It shouldn’t affect us on Saturday when we are on the field.
“We always want to win and want to play our best football so we’re all looking forward to Saturday.”
Sergio Aguero was City’s match-winner against Gladbach with a hat-trick — his second in the Champions League this season — but he is suspended for Bournemouth’s visit.
Kelechi Iheanacho, a goal-scoring replacement for Aguero against Gladbach, is expected to take the Argentine’s place at the tip of the attack.
David Silva is due to miss out after sitting out the Gladbach game with an unspecified minor injury.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth registered their first win of the campaign last weekend by edging West Bromwich Albion 1-0.
Guardiola lost only four home league games in his three seasons at Bayern Munich and while Howe is plotting how to outwit him, he freely admits how much he admires the Catalan’s work.
“I think they’re an outstanding team,” said the Bournemouth manager.
“When I watch them play, I enjoy it, and it’s rare for me to say that when I watch an opponent play. They’ve been very impressive.”
– Spring in their step –
United will hope to bounce back from their derby defeat and Europa League loss at Feyenoord when they travel to Watford in one of four games taking place on Sunday.
United captain Wayne Rooney and full-backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw were left out of the mid-week trip to the Netherlands with a view to Sunday’s game at Vicarage Road.
Defending champions Leicester City should have a spring in their step again when they welcome Burnley to the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Claudio Ranieri’s men crashed 4-1 at Liverpool last weekend — the second defeat of their title defence — but made a memorable Champions League bow in mid-week by winning 3-0 at Belgian side Club Brugge.
“This has gone now. It’s been nice to enjoy it, but it’s gone now,” said Marc Albrighton, who opened the scoring in Bruges.
“We’ll have a meeting about Burnley now and we’ve got to get our heads switched on to them. We’ll have no problem focusing on that.
“We know that’s our bread and butter. We need to concentrate on our league form and get some wins there and that’s where it matters.”
Tottenham Hotspur will not approach Sunday’s visit of winless Sunderland in quite such a sunny mood after their Champions League opener at Wembley saw them beaten 2-1 by Monaco.
But Arsenal, who visit Hull City on Saturday, will draw encouragement from having rescued a 1-1 draw from their mid-week trip to Paris Saint-Germain despite being outplayed for much of the game.
Everton, third in the table after Monday’s 3-0 win at Sunderland, welcome Middlesbrough to Goodison Park on Saturday.
The weekend’s action begins on Friday when Antonio Conte’s Chelsea welcome Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to Stamford Bridge.
Conte has confirmed that David Luiz will make his second Chelsea debut, in place of injured captain John Terry, following his 32 million pounds ($42.7 million, 38 million euros) return from PSG.
Liverpool are due to welcome back centre-back Dejan Lovren following a head injury, but midfielder Emre Can remains sidelined with an ankle problem.
Friday (1900 GMT):
Chelsea v Liverpool
Saturday (1400 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Everton v Middlesbrough (1630 GMT), Hull City v Arsenal, Leicester City v Burnley, Manchester City v Bournemouth, West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United
Sunday (1315 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Crystal Palace v Stoke City, Southampton v Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland (1530 GMT), Watford v Manchester United (1100 GMT)
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