Good afternoon all. Pep Guardiola
may have one eye on today's early kickoff at Old Trafford but he has a trip to West Bromwich Albion
to prepare his high-flying Manchester City
team for. Let's get to the team news...
WEST BROM: Foster; McAuley, Hegazi, Evans; Nyom, Krychowiak, Livermore, Barry, Gibbs; Rondon, Rodriguez
Subs: Myhill, Brunt, Yacob, Robson-Kanu, Chadli, Phillips, McClean
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; Fernandinho
, Silva, De Bruyne; Bernardo, Sane, JesusSubs:
Bravo, Mangala, Danilo, Gundogan, Toure, Sterling, Aguero
Guardiola made nine changes for the EFL Cup match with Wolves in midweek but has pretty much reverted to the starting XI that beat Burnley 3-0 last week, the only change being Gabriel Jesus
in for Sergio Aguero
Albion will be glad to see Aguero only on the bench. The Argentine has scored or assisted 11 goals in 10 matches against the Baggies, but his Brazilian strike partner will give the home defence enough to worry about today.
Jesus and Bernardo Silva are the only players retained from midweek, with the summer signing from Monaco keeping Raheem Sterling
out of the team. Claudio Bravo was the penalty-shootout hero but Ederson regains his place for the return of the Premier League.
Fabian Delph continues to deputise for the injured Bernard Mendy at left-back. The former Aston Villa man is making the most of his opportunity, with the outstanding Kevin de Bruyne
and David Silva having got the central midfield positions locked down.
They may only be playing one up front but this City team have goals all over midfield. Leroy Sane
is the biggest threat, coming off the left wing. The young German has been involved in nine goals in his last six Premier League games, with five goals and four assists.
As for WBA, Pulis appears to have followed the trend of three at the back. Jonny Evans, a target for Man City in the summer, has been passed fit to partner Ahmed Hegazi and Gareth McAuley. Craig Dawson would surely have been one of that trio but has been ruled out for eight weeks with injury.
Alan Nyom and Kieran Gibbs are the wing-backs for Albion, although you'd expect they would very much be part of a defensive five, with three holding midfielders in front of them including former City Premier League winner Gareth Barry
and Salomon Rondon both start again for Albion, although it seems as a central two - sometimes Rodriguez has been shifted out wide to accommodate the South American. That change of shape means that Nacer Chadli, WBA's most gifted player, is only on the bench.
As Craig Shakespeare and Ronald Koeman have learned the hard way, it is approaching sacking season in the Premier League and Tony Pulis
shouldn't be sitting too comfortably. The Baggies have only won two of 18 league games and none of their last seven.
Albion have not been losing matches at home lately, but they haven't been winning them either. They are unbeaten at The Hawthorns this term, although they have drawn three of four and have not won since the opening day against Bournemouth.
RESULT: There was a huge late goal at Old Trafford where Anthony Martial bagged Manchester United an 81st-minute winner against Tottenham Hotspur. Those three points close the gap on City to two points ahead of kickoff. City could go eight clear of Spurs with victory.
Back to matters here. As usual, Pulis's team have been solid at the back, but scoring goals has been a problem. The Baggies have only found the net seven times in the league this campaign, and no player has scored more than once. They need more from Rodriguez and Rondon.
For a side that is built on old-fashioned English grit and organisation, it may come as a surprise to learn that West Brom's seven different goalscorers this season are all different nationalities, including an Egyptian and a Venezuelan. #diversity
With Pulis in charge, West Brom have been typecast as a team who can give the big boys a game, but they took only five points out of 36 against the top six last year and have already lost to Arsenal this campaign. Is the Welshman losing his touch?
Sections of the Albion faithful are getting fed up of Pulis's negative ways, especially now that they have lost much of the solidity that made him an initial success. This tweet quite accurately summarises the problems that the Baggies are having at the moment.
Guardiola's boys have been running over everybody in their path this season. Although they later progressed on penalties, Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with Wolves was the first time in 13 matches that City had not won, inside 90 minutes at least.
Pulis believes that City are the best team in Europe on current form...
He told reporters: "Man City are a different proposition. They're most probably the form team in Europe, not just England. They've been special this year, that group have been outstanding.
"Pep has got what he wants and he's starting to show people what a fantastic coach he is."
Victory in the West Midlands today would give City a record-equalling 28 points from the opening 10 games. The two previous teams to reach that total - Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in 2005 and Roberto Mancini's City in 2011, went on to win the title
They might be easy on the eye, but surprisingly this Guardiola team are not quite as prolific as that 2011-12 title-winning team. This season's tally of 32 goals inside nine games is one less than what Mancini's City had managed at the same stage.
The most goals that a Guardiola team has scored after 10 league games is 34 by Barcelona in 2009-10. Three at The Hawthorns today and City will be more free scoring than the Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic attack.
, Gabriel Jesus
, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling have already passed five goals this season. We have already seen the benefits of goals on the bench this lunchtime with Martial, so to have Aguero and Sterling in reserve is quite a weapon if things stay tight until late on.
Their attack is irresistible but City's defence has been holding up its end of the bargain this season. They have kept clean sheets in five of their last seven away games, with West Brom's Claudio Yacob one of only two scorers during that run – in September's EFL Cup game that City won 2-1 at today's venue.
Around 10 minutes until kickoff in the West Midlands. Sports Mole
also has Arsenal's visit of Swansea and the big German bromance at Anfield sorted this afternoon, on our live commentaries page
if you want to follow those games.
HEAD TO HEAD: Manchester City have a brilliant recent record against the Baggies. They have won the last 11 meetings between these two sides. A twelfth this afternoon would put them in the company of Chelsea and Arsenal as West Brom's biggest ever tormentors.
West Brom's most recent against City came in 2008 when Roman Bednar scored a 90th-minute winner in a 2-1 Albion victory. Baggies captain Chris Brunt was a late substitute that day while injured James Morrison also started.
Pulis has been under City's thumb throughout his entire career. He has won only one of his 17 Premier League matches against the Citizens - a 1-0 win for Stoke in January 2009. City got revenge by beating Pulis's Stoke in the FA Cup final two years later.
PREDICTION: Man City are rightly heavy favourites for this one but I don't think they will roll over West Brom as easily as they have done other opponents in recent weeks. A 2-0 win will still be enough for Pep's boys to regain their five-point lead.
KICKOFF: The action is underway at The Hawthorns. Can WBA stop the City steam train?
The game has already settled into the pattern that was expected, with City having plenty of the ball and West Brom sitting deep. Delph takes on the first shot of the afternoon from 25 yards but drags it wide.
West Brom are pressing Man City high but so far the visitors have had the confidence to play around them, out from the back. WBA have a sight of an opening when Barry chips a ball over the top for Rondon but Stones is across well to tackle.
Man City are so fluid going forward. Bernardo and Sane are not sticking to the wings and are taking up some central positions in the pockets which WBA are at full stretch to cope with. The movement is just so good.
City break rapidly down the right through Walker and his cross into the area falls to Sane who takes a shot on which is blocked by Hegazi.
GOAL! WEST BROM 0-1 MAN CITY (LEROY SANE)
That didn't take long! Sane is the goalscorer - his eight of the season - as he rifles past Foster from 15 yards after Fernandinho spotted him on the left edge of the area with a good pass.
GOAL! WEST BROM 1-1 MAN CITY (JAY RODRIGUEZ)
An immediate response from West Brom! Barry again dinks the ball over the City defence - clearly something WBA have discussed before the match - and Rodriguez runs onto it to lob the ball over Ederson, who was in no man's land. Perhaps City won't have it all their own way!
GOAL! WEST BROM 1-2 MAN CITY (FERNANDINHO)
What a whirlwind start to this one! Pulis will be furious having seen his team reacted brilliantly to get back on level terms to concede such a sloppy goal. Fernandinho has space to shoot on the edge of the box and it takes a nick off Barry on its way past Foster.
City appear completely undeterred by the goal they conceded and are still in rampant mood. They break so quickly through Sane and WBA have to be very careful here otherwise they will be out of the game before half time.
The visitors just seem to have so much energy in the middle of the park and WBA can't keep up. Barry was never speedy and is 36 now, and Livermore and Krychowiak are not the most mobile units.
YELLOW! Jonny Evans, who was a major doubt today with a hamstring strain, shows that maybe he is a little off the pace by hacking down De Bruyne, who stays down briefly to send Guardiola's heart temporarily racing.
City do not look as solid at the back today as they have for much of this season. Rondon and Rodriguez do have the extra physicality to trouble Stones, who is more at home against the nimbler forwards.
Pulis is bellowing instructions from the touchline, trying to get West Brom to fall into shape. This switch to a back three is not an easy one, especially not when City are pulling them in every direction.
MISS! City should be two up as David Silva heads horribly over the crossbar from eight yards out. McAuley lost his runner and you would expect that anybody but the Spaniard would have knocked that in. He has many admirable attributes but heading isn't one of them.
Krychowiak drives Albion forward through the middle and has a pass on to Rondon to his left, but Otamendi is well positioned to intercept. That is where WBA are well short on quality compared to their opponents.
Pulis has already made tactical changes to try to contain City better. Rodriguez has, reluctantly I'm sure, moved out to the right and Livermore to the left in front of a back five. The lone forward Rondon is dropping pretty deep too.
Delph shanks his clearance and the ball goes high up above the City box. Rondon optimistically tries to generate enough power on the header to beat Ederson from 15 yards but the City keeper catches easily.
The action is just slowing down a tad after that breathless start. West Brom will be delighted if they can to half time at only a one-goal deficit but they are going to have to work very hard, just like Rodriguez did there by tracking back and dispossessing David Silva.
Bernardo chips a cross in between Silva and Sane and Nyom heads behind for City's first corner of the game.
Evans, on a booking already, gives a free kick away on the edge of the box for catching Bernardo. The set piece is in a great position for the left foot of Sane but he can't keep his powerful shot down.
CHANCE! Really good chance for the Baggies as Barry nips in on Fernandinho and tees up Rodriguez for a cross which Rondon heads just over the crossbar. The Venezuelan had to stoop to meet the ball in, which could have been better from Rodriguez.
A promising City break is halted by Delph not being quite up to speed with his teammates. The ball is recycled to De Bruyne who shoots wildly into the stands without any of the composure usually running through his game.
There will be TWO minutes of stoppage time at the end of this first half...
Silva picks out the out-in run of Sane, who heads across goal and forces McAuley into a panicky clearance.
HALF TIME: WEST BROM 1-2 MAN CITY
That first half threatened to get out of hand with three goals inside five minutes early on but it eventually settled down into the familiar pattern of City attack versus WBA defence, and Albion will be relieved to go into the break only one down.
Sane's opening goal - an emphatic finish which gave Foster no chance - was his third goal against the Baggies this term. Rodriguez's reply makes him the only Albion player this season to have scored more than once but West Brom only had parity for little over two minutes.
City's outstanding speed and movement of the ball forced Pulis into a quick tactical rethink. He has had to drop Rodriguez back into midfield to combat the City dominance, although that has left Rondon isolated against a defence which looks more vulnerable than usual.
UPDATE: This could be a really good afternoon for City with results elsewhere. Arsenal are losing at home to Swansea and Liverpool are being held by Huddersfield at Anfield. If those two teams are considered title contenders, perhaps they won't be by 5pm today.
Sane has been the star man for Pep Guardiola
's side so far. De Bruyne has taken most of the headlines lately but the German is quickly developing into one of the most feared and consistent players in the Premier League. Scary speed and wonderful technique; a devastating combination.
West Brom have just got to try to hang in there, take this into the final 20 minutes and see what they can do. Guardiola will be proactive in trying to kill this game off, with Aguero and Sterling ready to be called upon from the bench.
KICKOFF: The action resumes in the West Midlands, with both sides unchanged...
CHANCE! Krychowiak spreads the ball wide right to Nyom and then advances into the box to get on the end of the deep cross, with a header which is straight into the hands of Ederson on the bounce. The PSG loanee should do better.
Walker has Gibbs back-pedalling as he drives in off the right flank, but an ugly shot with the outside of his right boot drifts wide of the post.
West Brom started this half well but City have regained control of the ball. From a 30-yard free kick, De Bruyne's effort clips the head of Hegazi on its way through and goes behind for a corner.
Victory today would be City's sixth successive away win - their best run in the Premier League. They will want a third goal to feel comfortable though as West Brom have been a threat from crosses.
McAuley intercepts a Sane through-pass destined to Silva and the loose ball falls to De Bruyne, who is again way off target with his shot from distance. WBA don't want to keep giving him chances to shoot though.
SUBSTITUTION: Pulis makes his first change as he swaps Rondon for Robson-Kanu. It is not the most attacking substitution and the big South American for one certainly isn't happy about it.
YELLOW! Gabriel is booked for dissent after feeling he was fouled by McAuley. The Brazilian has been pretty ineffective up top on his own this afternoon and let his frustration show there.
SUBSTITUTION: Sterling comes on for Bernardo, who played 95 minutes against Wolves in midweek and has largely been on the periphery of this game. Sterling should give City some more natural width and stretch this game a little.
West Brom have a three-on-three counter-attacking scenario but Gibbs runs into trouble.
GOAL! WEST BROM 1-3 MAN CITY (RAHEEM STERLING)
An immediate impact from the substitute as he scores for the seventh time in his last nine matches. It is a great move from City who work it across the area for Walker to cross into the six-yard box for a simple Sterling tap in.
West Brom may have been thinking that, if they could have hung on for another 10 minutes, they could have a go at getting an equaliser, but that goal will knock the stuffing out of them and I doubt they will be able to muster a response.
SUBSTITUTION: Matt Phillips
comes on for McAuley, which could mean a switch to a back four or Nyom shifting inside to centre-back and the Scotland international playing at right wing-back.
Jesus should find the run of Sane on a City counter but his pass is cut out by Hegazi.
YELLOW! Otamendi is shown a yellow card for a very late lunge on Livermore.
YELLOW! Hegazi follows his fellow defender into the book for a cynical tug on Sterling.
De Bruyne brilliantly spots the run of Sane with a great switch of play, but the German's touch lets him down and Evans can get across to clear. Foster is then quick off his line to thwart Jesus from Fernandinho's through-ball.
The slight attacking threat that Albion posed at the end of the first half is now nowhere to be seen. City are in complete control of this game and look as through they will close out an eighth straight victory with ease.
Outstanding desire and work ethic from Sane. He has his goal, and City have the game wrapped up and he still retreats at pace over 50 yards to tackle Rodriguez and prevent a WBA counter-attack.
SUBSTITUTION: James McClean, Republic of Ireland's hero against Wales earlier this month but still can't get in this West Brom side, comes on for the final 10 minutes in place of Krychowiak.
SUBSTITUTION: Ilkay Gundogan, who scored twice at The Hawthorns last year in City's 4-0 win, continues his comeback from injury with a 10-minute cameo as Jesus comes off.
CHANCE! De Bruyne has not been at his best today, or at least his finishing hasn't been. He goes through one-on-one on down the right channel but he slices his shot wide of the post.
SAVE! Foster keeps the deficit at two with a great save from Silva at point-blank range. The Spaniard turned unchallenged 10 yards out and had the whole goal to aim at but Foster made a brave block.
City have not been at their best today but, on the back of their midweek excursions, they have still been plenty good enough to deserve this victory over an Albion side who look neither dangerous offensively or organised defensively. Lots of work for Pulis to do, if he is given the chance.
In the first of THREE minutes of stoppage time, Sane denies Sterling the chance of a second when his weak square pass is collected by Foster.
GOAL! WEST BROM 2-3 MAN CITY (MATT PHILLIPS)
Some late drama at The Hawthorns as Otamendi gifts Albion a goal back. He tries to chest a cross back to Ederson rather than simply clear the ball and Phillips poaches in to poke it past the Brazilian. There may be a minute or two left for the Baggies to try to snatch the most unlikely equaliser.
FULL TIME: WEST BROM 2-3 MAN CITY
An unnecessarily nervy last couple of minutes for City, but really they were convincing and deserving winners. It was not as emphatic as previous victories, but it was the three points that mattered after their red neighbours put the pressure on.
That's it from The Hawthorns, but you can still read our match report on the action
here. You can also catch up on the rest of this afternoon's football results
with Sports Mole
, and stick around for live coverage of Chelsea's trip to Bournemouth
. Enjoy, and thanks for joining us!