Manchester City launch their League Cup defence at Swansea City this week with manager Pep Guardiola desperate to keep a lid on expectations after their supreme start to the season.
City have won their eight games in all competitions – a club record – and preserved their two-point advantage at the Premier League summit with a razor-sharp 4-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday.
It was the fifth time this season they have scored three or more goals in a game, but Guardiola has vowed that he will not allow complacency to take hold at the Etihad Stadium.
“That is not going to happen when I am there,” he told reporters after the win against Bournemouth.
“And don’t say it is too easy. I heard from years ago the Premier League is the toughest league and I am going to accept that.
“We have a lot of work (to do) and we are just in September. We have played absolutely nothing.
“Always for the next game we have to try to do it better than the game before.”
The next game is against a Swansea side who were left a point above the relegation zone following a 1-0 loss at Southampton on Sunday.
The result increased the scrutiny on coach Francesco Guidolin and with a league game against City to follow, and then a visit from in-form Liverpool, he faces a testing run of fixtures.
“I am worried because my job is my job and it is my attitude to be always ready if it’s possible,” said Guidolin, whose club won the League Cup in 2013.
“Now we have Man City on Wednesday, Man City again on Saturday, and then Liverpool. We have to improve. The opponent is not important, but our attitude is.”
The stand-out tie of the third round takes place at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday when Premier League champions Leicester City entertain Chelsea.
Leicester go into the game on the back of successive 3-0 wins over Club Brugge and Burnley, while Chelsea were left smarting by a 2-1 home defeat at Liverpool’s hands on Friday.
Another team in the doldrums are Manchester United, who crashed to a third consecutive loss at Watford in the league on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s side visit third-tier Northampton Town, where defeat would rank alongside their humiliating 4-0 loss to Milton Keynes Dons in this competition under Louis van Gaal in 2014.
“I know what is in my hands, the improvement of the team and individuals. I have to try to stop defensive mistakes,” Mourinho said after the 3-1 reverse at Vicarage Road.
“I knew I had a task. It is tactical, but also mental. We have to improve, no doubt.”
The tie will rekindle memories of an extraordinary performance at Northampton by United great George Best, who scored six goals in an 8-2 FA Cup win at their old County Ground in February 1970.
Liverpool, last season’s beaten finalists, begin their quest for a record-extending ninth League Cup at Championship side Derby County.
Tottenham Hotspur are sweating on the fitness of striker Harry Kane ahead of their home game with Gillingham, after he was stretchered off with an ankle injury in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Sunderland.
Arsenal, who won 4-1 at Hull City on Saturday, get their League Cup campaign under way at Nottingham Forest.
Bournemouth v Preston North End
Brighton and Hove Albion v Reading
Derby County v Liverpool
Everton v Norwich City
Leeds United v Blackburn Rovers
Leicester City v Chelsea
Newcastle United v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Fulham v Bristol City
Northampton Town v Manchester United
Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Stoke City v Hull City
Swansea City v Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur v Gillingham
West Ham United v Accrington Stanley