Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City will begin their title defence against Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United on Saturday afternoon.

The 2019-20 Premier League season kicked off on Friday night with last season’s runners up Liverpool thrashing newly-promoted Norwich City. Saturday will see current title holders Manchester City facing off against West Ham United at the London Olympic Stadium.

West Ham United had a fairly decent 2018-19 campaign, finishing tenth in the Premier League table. However, manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping to take his team a step further and challenge for the European spots in the new season, after having made significant investments in the squad over the summer.

The Hammers’ pre-season was a bit of a mixed bag, as they managed just three wins in six games, which came against Altach, Fulham and Hertha Berlin. They were chastened 4-1 by their Saturday’s opponents in the Premier League Asia Trophy last month and will want to put up a much better display at home this weekend.

Manchester City were pushed to the brink by Liverpool last time out, but Pep Guardiola’s side managed to narrowly edge out their rivals to retain their title. They will now be looking to become the only second team after neighbours Manchester United to win the Premier League title for three seasons in a row.

Manchester City had a solid pre-season, following which they beat Liverpool in the FA Community Shield match last weekend to lift their first trophy of the new season. Having already gotten the better of West Ham during the pre-season, the Cityzens will be aiming to put them to the sword once again on Saturday.

Team News & Tactics

West Ham United

Captain Noble is a doubt for Saturday (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images for Premier League)

Captain Noble is a doubt for Saturday (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images for Premier League)

West Ham made as many as six signings in the summer transfer window, with Sebastien Haller and Pablo Fornals dominating the headlines. However, deadline day addition Albian Ajeti is unlikely to be involved as is fellow new arrival Goncalo Cardoso, both of whom only trained with their new teammates on Thursday morning.

Club captain Mark Noble is ruled out with a leg injury for the Hammers. But, first-choice goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski has been passed fit after struggling with a groin injury in the past couple of weeks and should man the goal against City on Saturday, ahead of new signings Roberto and David Martin.

Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena are the first-choice pairing at the heart of the West Ham defence, while Ryan Fredericks is the obvious choice at right-back. Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku will battle it out for the left-back slot, but the former should get the nod on Saturday.

With Noble out with an injury, Jack Wilshere is likely to pair up with Declan Rice in the midfield pivot. The duo will have the unenviable task of keeping a close eye on City’s playmaking duo of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. Manuel Lanzini will slot in as the No.10 for West Ham and look to dictate play in the final third of the pitch.

The Argentine should get plenty of support from new signing Pablo Fornals and last season’s star player Felipe Anderson, who are likely to occupy the right and left flanks respectively for the East Londoners. Leading the line for West Ham will be club record signing Haller, who had an impressive season with Eintracht Frankfurt last time out.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Cresswell; Wilshere, Rice; Fornals, Lanzini, Anderson; Haller

Manchester City

Rodri set for his PL debut (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Rodri set for his PL debut (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Manchester City were dealt a major blow on the day of their Community Shield triumph as German speedster Leroy Sane sustained an ACL injury and is facing up to seven months on the sidelines. However, they have been handed a boost as Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte are both back in contention after missing the match against Liverpool.

New signing Joao Cancelo has travelled with the squad to London, along with fellow summer arrivals Scott Carson and Angelino but they are unlikely to be involved. Rodri though, should make his Premier League debut on Saturday.

Ederson should take his rightful place between the sticks on Saturday replacing Claudio Bravo, who started the Community Shield match. With Cancelo not featuring, Kyle Walker should hold on to the right-back spot while Oleksandr Zinchenko should continue on the left. John Stones is likely to be partnered by the fit-again Laporte ahead of Nicolas Otamendi, who started last weekend.

Rodri is set to start at the base of the three-man midfield for Manchester City ahead of Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan, who penned a new deal with the club on Friday. Kevin De Bruyne will be aiming to start the season on a bang, after a injury-riddled campaign last time out and will have the support of newly-appointed captain David Silva in the middle.

Bernardo Silva is pretty much nailed down for the right flank slot for Manchester City. With Sane out for the first half of the season, Raheem Sterling should move to the left side ahead of Riyad Mahrez. The club’s all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero will be the man spearheading the attack against West Ham.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, David Silva; Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling

Betting Odds

Probables:

1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.95

2. Over 3.5 Match Goals @ 2.20

Outside Chance:

1. Full Time Result – West Ham or Draw @ 4.00

Key Stats

  • Only on two previous occasions have the reigning Premier League champions lost their opening match of the next league season – Leicester City in 2016-17 (1-2 away at Hull City) and Chelsea in 2017-18 (2-3 at home to Burnley).
  • Manchester City have won all of their last seven matches against West Ham United in all competitions. The Cityzens plundered 23 goals in those games, while letting in just three.
  • West Ham United have won three of their last five home games against reigning Premier League champions (L2). They did, however, lose this exact fixture 0-4 in the previous campaign.
  • Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 10 opening day Premier League fixtures (W9 D1), winning each of the last eight. A win against West Ham on Saturday will see them equal Chelsea’s Premier League record of nine successive opening day victories recorded between 2002-03 and 2010-11.
  • Manchester City captain David Silva has scored in four of his last five games against West Ham across all competitions, including in all three of his appearances at the London Stadium.

Player to Watch

Sebastien Haller

West Ham's record signing gunning for a great start (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

West Ham’s record signing gunning for a great start (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

One of the most high-profile signings of the summer transfer window, French striker Sebastien Haller joined West Ham United from Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt in a club-record deal worth £45 million. And naturally, many eyes will be glued on the 25-year-old when he takes the field against Manchester City this weekend.

Haller joins the Hammers on the back of an excellent season with Eintracht, during which he bagged 20 goals and set up 12 more in 41 matches. A natural goalscorer with a strong physique, the Frenchman is someone who can get the best out of the players around him with his neat link-up play and should fill in the vacancy left by Marko Arnautovic’s departure with ease.

Someone of Haller’s capabilities should relish playing alongside quality playmakers such as Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson and Pablo Fornals. But, it isn’t always easy for foreign players to settle in quickly to the demands of the Premier League. It will be interesting to see how the Frenchman fares on his debut against the champions this weekend.

Prediction

West Ham United 1-3 Manchester City

West Ham United have a poor record against Manchester City in recent meetings, having lost all of their seven previous fixtures against the Premier League champions. While Manuel Pellegrini has added some exciting names to his squad, the new members are likely to take time to settle in and gel with their teammates.

Manchester City, on the other hand, have looked strong throughout their pre-season and will be high on confidence having lifted the Community Shield last week. And with title rivals Liverpool setting the pace with their resounding victory against Norwich City on Friday, Pep Guardiola’s side will not want to drop any points on the opening day.

Manchester City had dispatched an almost full-strength West Ham side with ease during the pre-season and we at The Hard Tackle are predicting another easy win for the reigning Premier League champions at the London Stadium this weekend.

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