Football: Kevin De Bruyne believes squad battle a boon for City

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne at the Belgium News Conference of the 2018 Fifa World Cup at Tallinn, Estonia on June 8, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WATFORD (AFP) - Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne reckons the intense competition for places at the club is helping maintain their standards on the pitch.

City manager Pep Guardiola significantly strengthened his squad during the close season and his club have made an unbeaten start to the campaign in all competitions.

City are behind Premier League leaders Manchester United on goal difference alone, but with their local rivals not playing until Sunday they have the opportunity to move into top spot with victory at Watford on Saturday.

And De Bruyne insisted there would be no let up against the Hornets because there are always other players pushing to take a member of the starting side's place.

"We know how much quality we have," said the Belgium international. "We are all aware that there will be times when we have to spend a couple of games on the bench because the guys that aren't playing are at the same level and are always ready to step in.

"It's a great situation for the club and of course, we have a very busy schedule ahead of us so we'll all play a part at some stage. Competition is strong."

De Bruyne has been deployed in a less advanced position by Guardiola this season but stressed he was happy to play wherever the City manager wants.

He added: "Throughout my career, I've always said that as I go along, I will start to play a deeper role because of the extra bullets I have in my armoury in contrast to the more wing attack players.

"I'm not getting as many goals as I did in my first season, but I'm not playing as advanced as I was then. That said, I get just as much pleasure from an assist, if not more.

"I've learnt so much from players like David Silva, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, so I think I'm improving my all-round game."

City captain Vincent Kompany is a fitness doubt with a calf problem but Guardiola has no other fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Vicarage Road.

Meanwhile Watford manager Marco Silva has promised his players will remain grounded despite knowing victory over City would also send them top of the table.

If the Hornets secure all three points they would be at the summit of English football's top flight for the first time since 1982.

It is almost 35 years to the day since Graham Taylor's Watford beat West Bromwich Albion 3-0 to move top of what was then the First Division.

Watford are still unbeaten under Silva and the Portuguese manager said: "We treat each match as normal. We prepare the team to win the game. It's important at the moment that everyone, starting with myself, keeps their feet on the ground.

"What we have achieved now is only eight points and nothing special. We are happy, everyone is happy at the club and the fans are happy."

He added: "On Saturday it's still important that everyone keep their feet on the ground. It is a big fight and we know what our way is.

"The big expectation is always good and not a problem. We know what we need to do."

Watford are without the injured Craig Cathcart (knee), while fellow centre-back Miguel Britos is suspended. Defenders Brice Dja Djedje and Kiko Femenia both face fitness tests before kick-off.

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