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Battling City confident their 'best yet to come'

Jose Mourinho, surely, remains too shrewd a footballing judge to have read much into witnessing first-hand Manchester City's modest form in the fledgling Premier League campaign.

Rather, Real Madrid's manager, who was scouting his Champions League group opponents ahead of their meeting later this month, will have preferred to heed the words of City captain Vincent Kompany and coach David Platt.

This is a City team, after all, without the injured Sergio Aguero and, just as importantly in terms of defensive discipline, Gareth Barry. It is also a City team with five new signings -- four of significance in Maicon, Javi Garcia, Scott Sinclair and Matija Nastasic -- yet to kick a ball for the club.

It is also a City team who, despite some unconvincing passages in the opening three games, have collected seven points and will return from the international break a more formidable force, according to Kompany and Platt.

"What's missing? Two points out of nine, that's all," said the Belgian defender. "I'm leaving for the internationals now and if I had to leave one message for the team it would be, 'well done guys, we've battled hard, we've shown how strong we are'.

"If we are able to get results playing what people say might not be our best, then what will happen when we do? The best is yet to come."

City could have wished for two points better, of course. They could also have wished for more comfortable afternoons than this, especially as Yaya Toure's first-half opener gave them complete control.

But uncertain defending, and a slip from David Silva, presented Bobby Zamora with an equaliser that, luckily for City nerves, lasted just three minutes before Edin Dzeko's header restored the lead. Carlos Tevez's fortunate stoppage-time deflected goal flattered City.

Still, the post-international break returns of Aguero and Barry, Silva's improved fitness and the additional signings all underwrite such City optimism -- Platt certainly believes that the business conducted by the club will lead to significant improvement.

"You look at it now, whichever 11 you pick is strong. We've got different characteristics that have come in," said Platt. "Javi Garcia is a very tactical midfield player who can sit there if we want to play with a three, bolster things there, release Yaya further up the pitch.

"Scott Sinclair will give us another alternative as well, somebody who hugs the touchline, who looks to get in behind people, a little bit of pace.

"We've got the alternatives, we've just got to make sure we pick the right teams and improve."

Mark Hughes, who made way for Mancini at City, can only dream of "problems" like theirs as he seeks to improve on a start of one point from nine.

Esteban Granero, picked up for £9m from Real Madrid, looked the pick of Hughes' attacking signings although it said a lot about his team's rearguard action that their best player was 35-year-old defender Ryan Nelsen.

"I thought Esteban Granero was excellent all day," said Hughes. "He showed what a great player he is going to be for us. We defended exceptionally well today and it's just a shame that Ryan's 35, not 25." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent