Preview: Crystal Palace v City

City embark on their Carling Cup campaign against Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace. The Yorkshireman’s sides are usually competitive and City will need to put up a stronger showing than last season when we went out to Brighton and Nottingham Forest at the first hurdle of the domestic cups.

The good news is that our squad is far stronger than last season and ought to be more focused due to the absence of European fixtures. We could really do with good cup runs, if only to give some of our squad a regular run out. It’s difficult to predict a team, but I’m hoping Hughes sends out a strong side with the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Petrov and Nedum Onuoha getting a game rather than a host of youngsters.

City failed to produce a thumping victory in any of the pre-season fixtures, so a strong line-up and convincing victory would give a big boost to the confidence of the squad (and supporters). The last thing we need is to go out in a “typical City” performance which would unleash a torrent of pent up criticism in the media.

It will be interesting to see if there’s a role for Nigel De Jong in a pair of defensive midfielders, or whether Hughes continues with the more open 4-4-2 that has so far produced two Premier League victories. The vulnerability of this system was apparent in the second half against Wolves, and not something I’d like to chance in a one off cup game.

New signing Sylvinho is still waiting for international clearance but there is a chance Joleon Lescott could make his debut. While it would be a surprise to see Adebayor and Robinho this early in the competition, both the former Arsenal striker and Kolo Toure are in the squad.

Mark Hughes:

“There is expectation but we are enjoying that and the Carling Cup is the next match on the agenda.

“We are looking to do well in the competition especially as we have not got Europe this year so we have one fewer trophy at which to aim.

“It is a difficult tie. We know that any side of Mr Warnock’s will have a certain way of playing and a certain attitude about them which is a reflection of the manager. It is not going to be easy, far from it. We are not going to take the tie lightly.

“We will go there with a strong side. There are two views on these things. You can possibly give game time to guys that need it because we are so early in the season and maybe some of them need  a little bit more actual playing time.

“On the other hand you can say let’s be really strong and hopefully start really well and get the game put to bed and then you make changes and give people opportunities.

“So there are two schools of thought and I know which one I am erring towards.

“Which one? Everyone will find out tonight. We are not in bad shape injury wise. And they have all already been told how important we regard this tie and this competition.”

According to the official site, there’s a cash turnstile for those wishing to pay on the night.

Football ground guide to Selhurst Park

Possible line-up: Given, Zabaleta, Toure, Onuoha, McGivern, De Jong, Barry, Ireland, Petrov, Tevez, Bellamy

Prediction: 4-0 to City.

Summer spending spree won’t be repeated – Hughes

Mark Hughes has stated that the incredible turnover of players in the last two transfer windows isn’t going to be repeated in the future.

These are fascinating statements that appear to confirm how Sheikh Mansour has invested heavily in the short team, with a view to having City compete for the Champions League positions.

Mark Hughes:

“In the future we won’t be going into the market to this extent again. We have gone very quickly into the market and brought in big numbers of players.

“Usually in football this doesn’t happen over short periods. We are obviously investing heavily in our academy and in our scouting.

“In future we will be looking to acquire players we feel will add value to the club and become great players at Manchester City, rather than going out to the market and at times paying a premium because we need the players now.

“We will be in the market if top players become available, but it won’t be at the level we have seen in the last two windows.

“I set out what I felt the club needed in terms of players.

“It was basically a process that should have been done over a three- to five-year period but we made the decision that we would try to make it happen in two windows, and to see how far we could get with it.

“For us to bring in the amount of players we have brought in, and the amount who have gone out, means we have changed personnel at an unprecedented level. Twenty-six players have been sold, released or sent out on loan and that is a huge turnover.

“The challenge we have is that we have a lot of new faces, but those new faces are of the type of character that we think will help in that gelling process.”

Will rival clubs, the media, Michel Platini and Uefa now relax and recognize that we’re not the death of football? Will they recognize that we’re only making an initial investment in the same way Blackburn did when Jack Walker took over, or Chelsea did when Roman Abramovich took over?

It would be nice to think so, but in the short term I doubt it.

In a relatively quiet transfer window elsewhere for the Premier League, we have generated reams of good copy for the press. Columnists will still need to fill their columns and with our higher profile, editors know that ‘outrage’ stories on our new money will continue to prove popular with readers.

Platini and Uefa have their own agenda to push in trying to curb the success of a Premier League that shows up the flaws in the Uefa competitions. Talking up the threat of our spending also helps Platini push the idea of a wage cap. Details of how a wage cap would work are conspicuously harder to find than proclamations on our ‘immoral’ spending.

However it would be interesting to see if the comments by Hughes prove to be true. Whilst I’m sure we won’t see the volume of transfers in future windows, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a smaller number of bigger signings.

If City were to gain a Champions League place then the ‘galactico’ players who have previously said no to our advances, may become more amenable to joining us. To challenge for the Champions League these top class players may even be a necessity, and I get the impression that Sheikh Mansour doesn’t intend to settle for being an also-ran.

Whatever happens, this has been an amazing transfer window, and it will be fascinating to watch how the team comes together.