Manchester City will look to maintain pressure on league leaders Liverpool as they host West Ham United at the Etihad on Wednesday.

It has been a tremendous month for Manchester City so far, who have secured victories in all of their matches in all competitions. A run of six games that includes wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton as well as Bundesliga outfit FC Schalke in the UEFA Champions League.

Pep Guardiola’s side are just one point behind Liverpool at the top of the table and with the Reds dropping points in two of their last three league matches, the defending champions will have a glorious chance of mounting further pressure on them when they host West Ham United.

The Sky Blues are coming on the back of a nervy penalty shootout win over Chelsea, which led to club’s first major trophy of the season – a milestone that was largely overshadowed by the Kepa incident.

As for West Ham, they have managed to get their season back on track following a horrendous start. And the Hammers are now unbeaten in their last three matches and are coming on the back of a 3-1 comeback win over relegation-threatened Fulham in what was a fairly heated derby at the London Stadium.

However, the Irons have a disastrous record against the defending champions, having secured just one draw in their last six Premier League meetings. Mancheser City, on the other hand, have had a 100% record against West Ham in all competitions under Guardiola and the Catalan will certainly look to maintain that record this week.

And here at the Hard Tackle, we run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial encounter on Wednesday.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

Guardiola has confirmed in his press conference that his side will be without the services of a Gabriel Jesus for an indefinite amount of time. Thus, we could expect Sergio Aguero to spearhead the Man City attack, despite playing all 120 minutes in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City reacts during the Carabao Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 24, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Guardiola might have to risk Aguero this week, with Gabriel Jesus out injured. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The Argentine international will join Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez in the front three, with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva likely to be given a rest as City are due to play Bournemouth this weekend. However, Sterling could be deployed as the false nine should Guardiola opt to rest Aguero instead.

In midfield, Fernandinho has been ruled out, which could be a huge blow for the defending champions. Ilkay Gundogan is likely to deputize for the injured Brazilian in the holding midfield role. The former Dortmund midfielder will be partnered by David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, both of who will operate in a slightly advanced role.

Aymeric Laporte has been ruled out with a muscle problem while John Stones is struggling with a groin injury. Thus, Vincent Kompany could return to the starting eleven, partnering Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of Man City’s four-man backline.

Elsewhere, both Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko are more than likely to occupy the fullback slots with Ederson also retaining his place in between the sticks.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Zinchenko; David Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Aguero, Sane.

West Ham United

Key defenders in Winston Reid and Fabian Balbuena have both returned to team training but the midweek fixture against Manchester City may come a little too soon for them.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Fabian Balbuena of West Ham in action during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Chelsea FC at London Stadium on September 23, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

West Ham’s defensive stalwart Fabian Balbuena could soon return to full fitness but is unlikely to feature against Man City. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

As a result, Manuel Pellegrini will resort to the central defensive duo of Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop while Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell are also expected to retain their places in the starting lineup.

Zabaleta, in particular, will look to make an impression on his return to Etihad along with Samir Nasri, who is, however, unlikely to make the starting lineup ahead of the hard-working Robert Snodgrass.

The former Hull City star will be deployed in the advanced midfield role along with Mark Noble, though the latter may drop deeper and support the main holding midfielder in Declan Rice.

Elsewhere, the offensive duo of Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio are expected to occupy the wider attacking roles. However, Antonio could also play in a deeper role in order to provide additional defensive support to Zabaleta on the right-flank, thus leaving Anderson as the Hammers’ main source of creativity this week.

And finally, the West Ham attack will be led by Marko Arnautovic, whose physicality and dynamism will surely cause problems for the Manchester City backline.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Fabianski; Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Diop, Cresswell; Rice; Antonio, Snodgrass, Noble, Anderson; Arnautovic.

Key Stats

  • Manchester City have failed to win only once in their last 15 Premier League matches at the Etihad.
  • Manchester City have scored at least 2 goals in their last 8 matches against West Ham United in all competitions.
  • Since beating each of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City at the start of the 2015-16 campaign, West Ham are winless in their last 17 away league games against “top six” opponents.
  • Manchester City have scored at least twice in each of their 15 Premier League home games – the longest such run in the top flight since Spurs did so in 16 consecutive home matches between March-December 1965.
  • West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini will be just the third different manager to play away against Man City having previously managed them in the competition. Of the two, Peter Reid lost his return to Maine Road (2-4 in August 2000), while Mark Hughes’ record at the Etihad after leaving was P9 W1 D2 L6.

Player to Watch

Declan Rice

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12: Declan Rice of West Ham United celebrates scoring the winning goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal FC at London Stadium on January 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Manchester City target Declan Rice will look to impress this week. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

It goes without saying that Declan Rice will remain the focal point of the West Ham setup, especially against a Manchester City side who are known for their creative substance in midfield.

However, with Fernandinho out injured, it will be interesting to see how the likes of Gundogan, Silva and De Bruyne fare against this robust and hard-working midfielder this week.

Rice will be deployed in the holding midfield role, where he will be tasked with the responsibility of providing the security to the backline. And his excellent tackling coupled with his heading prowess and aggression will be key in dealing with the technically astute midfielders that Man City have in long supply.

Prediction

Manchester City 2-0 West Ham United

Manchester City have been almost unstoppable this season, having scored 18 goals in their last six games in all competitions. We predict the reigning champions to continue their excellent scoring form against the Hammers this week.

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