By Pete Hall
LONDON, Sept 23 (Reuters) – With a myriad of attacking options at his disposal, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is spoilt for choice and the Spaniard allowed himself the luxury of leaving Gabriel Jesus on the bench for Saturday’s 5-0 home win over Crystal Palace.
Seeing such talent on the sidelines can spur on those given a starting berth and so it proved as Leroy Sane netted a superb opener — the German’s second fine goal of the week after his stunner against West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup on Wednesday.
Not be outdone, up stepped Raheem Sterling and before the hour mark he had scored twice to take his season’s tally to five Premier League goals — two fewer than he managed all last season.
Sterling possesses many facets to his game, and has the ability to become one of England´s leading lights, but he had not really taken off at Manchester until Saturday.
“Last season (Sterling) played awesome, he played really good,” Guardiola said in late August. “But for Liverpool, he played an outstanding season (2013-14) with Luis Suarez and the others.”
No City player completed more sprints than Sane´s 66 against Palace at the Etihad but 48 from Sterling, despite him coming off in the 59th minute, is also mightily impressive. Only Kyle Walker reached a faster top speed for City.
With Sergio Aguero at the top of his game once more, and Jesus back to full fitness and firing on all cylinders, City have a potent attack that most teams simply cannot handle.
“Last season we had a lot of problems at home winning games,” said Guardiola after Saturday’s win. “That’s why the last two games are so important — winning 5-0 against Liverpool and Crystal Palace — for our confidence and for the other games when we come back from the international break.”
The home fixtures which follow a tough trip to Chelsea next Saturday are against Stoke and Burnley — teams who could be expected to fear City´s forward line in this mood.
The challenge for the 22-year-old Sterling especially is to maintain Saturday’s level. Should his performance drop, there is plenty of talent waiting in the wings. (Editing by Clare Fallon)
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