United lesson

It may be too late for Manchester City to learn a big lesson from neighbours Manchester United – but they should at least be aware they face the same danger.

The Reds, who are the only other team to start the Premier League season a week late, looked sluggish and unprepared as they slumped to a 3-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace.

The London side, with a game already under their belt, were much sharper, with United’s physical conditioning called into question.

Against a dangerous Wolves side which kicked off with a good 2-0 win at Sheffield United, the Blues have a problem right away, and might need to adapt their approach, to be a little more defence-minded than usual.

Slap for Phil

The extent of Pep Guardiola’s annoyance at Phil Foden’s indiscretions on England duty will become evident.

The manager refused to publicly criticise his player, instead turning his fire on the critics, but whether he has privately disciplined the player should become clearer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played Mason Greenwood off the bench on Saturday, perhaps a sign of his displeasure with Foden’s partner-in-crime, after the youngsters celebrated their England debuts by inviting two women to the team hotel, in breach of Covid protocols.

Foden should be in line to start, but if he doesn’t it will be interpreted as a slap on the wrist.

Left is right

Aymeric Laporte’s unavailability means that the question of whether Guardiola would play two left-footed centre backs together by choice, when he has other options, will not get answered.

Nathan Ake is lined up for his debut, but his partner is not so certain, with want-away Eric Garcia, new skipper Fernandinho, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi all hopeful.

Whoever gets the nod, it will give a fair idea of how Guardiola is thinking in terms of right-sided centre backs, all of whom have a question mark over them.

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Bogey flickers

There has been plenty of negativity around the Blues in pre-season, with Sergio Aguero’s injury, the fruitless pursuit of Kalidou Koulibaly, Phil Foden’s exploits, and positive Covid tests for Laporte and Riyad Mahrez dominating the agenda.

But a win away to a team that has become a bogey outfit for the Blues in recent times – doing the double last season – would go a long way to restoring faith.

And it should be remembered that City were just eight minutes away from winning at Molineux with ten men last time the two sides met.

War and pace

Pace on the counter was City’s undoing in a defensive sense last season, and never more so than when Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez were thrusting spears deep into the heart of that slow back four.

Ake’s £40million purchase was one response to that problem, and this will be a severe test of whether they have learned their lesson – and whether Ake can be just as secure when he is playing a high line rather than having his back to the wall at Bournemouth.