Manchester City will face a stern mental test when they play hosts to West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
In the aftermath of a two-year ban from UEFA competitions, Pep Guardiola will be dealt with an enormous task of boosting the confidence of his players when Manchester City lock horns with West Ham United in the Premier League on Wednesday.
The Sky Blues have had a disappointing campaign, notably trailing league leaders Liverpool by a whopping 25 points. They are also coming on the back of a disheartening 2-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. And their season went from bad to worse when UEFA decided to penalise them for breaching the FFP rules by imposing a two-year ban from European competitions.
West Ham, on the other hand, have their own problems. A 4-0 win over AFC Bournemouth remains their only win in the Premier League under new boss David Moyes. As a result, the Hammers are still dawdling in the relegation zone, with just 24 points on the board.
That means the Londoners could run the risk of being overtaken by Watford should they fail to clinch even a single point against Manchester City this week. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this important match-up in the Premier League.
Tactics & Team News
Benjamin Mendy is likely to return to action after Guardiola confirmed that he wasn’t injured. The Frenchman will face a late fitness test but we expect him to start at left-back, at the expense of Oleksandr Zinchenko, who is out suspended. Joao Cancelo is also an option, should Mendy miss out.
There won’t be such confusion on the opposite flank, where Kyle Walker is a guaranteed starter. Aymeric Laporte could be in contention to start as well. But Guardiola is unlikely to rush him back into action, paving the way for Nicolas Otamendi to form the central defensive pairing alongside Fernandinho.
In midfield, Ilkay Gundogan might have to make way for David Silva while Rodri is a genuine candidate to retain his place in the holding midfield slot. Silva, meanwhile, will look to exploit the West Ham defence with his creativity, alongside the irreplaceable Kevin de Bruyne.
Guardiola could face problems in the attack, especially with Raheem Sterling ruled out due to injury. Bernardo Silva is tipped to replace the Englishman, but we expect Gabriel Jesus to get the nod ahead of the former Benfica man simply due to the fact that he is more comfortable playing at left-wing.
Riyad Mahrez is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. And finally, the Man City attack should be led by the one and only Sergio Aguero.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy; de Bruyne, Rodri, David Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Gabriel Jesus
Moyes could be boosted by the return of Felipe Anderson this week. The Brazilian has enjoyed a speedy recovery and could be in contention to start against Manchester City. However, the same can not be said about Andriy Yarmolenko.
Following a dreadful defensive performance in the last game, Moyes might switch to a three-man backline, meaning a 3-5-2 could be a possibility here. That could see Aaron Cresswell shifting into a central role, alongside Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop. Meanwhile, Ryan Fredericks will operate as a right wing-back, with Arthur Masuaku featuring on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Tomas Soucek seems a likely starter, having made a huge impression in his debut. The Czech midfielder will play an important role alongside Mark Noble and Declan Rice in the second line of press. Rice, however, is likely to operate in a relatively deeper role, almost as an auxiliary centre-back.
Moving forward, Robert Snodgrass has an excellent chance of starting the game, having scored two goals and produced one assist against Brighton & Hove Albion. He could potentially spearhead the West Ham attack alongside Sebastien Haller.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Fabianski; Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Fredericks, Soucek, Rice, Noble, Masuaku; Haller, Snodgrass
- Manchester City have won each of their last seven Premier League meetings with West Ham, scoring 23 goals and conceding just three in reply.
- West Ham have taken just four points from a possible 39 in Premier League games at the Etihad Stadium, drawing 1-1 in January 2008 and winning 2-1 in September 2015.
- West Ham have lost 20 of their last 23 Premier League away games against reigning champions, with their only victory coming against Manchester United in December 2001.
- Manchester City have lost six Premier League games this season – as many as they had in their previous two campaigns combined. Manager Pep Guardiola has never lost seven matches in any of his previous top-flight campaigns.
- West Ham haven’t won any of their last 16 league games in which they’ve conceded at least once since winning 3-1 at Watford in August. The Hammers haven’t kept a league clean sheet against Manchester City since November 2012, conceding in all 14 since.
Player to Watch
With Sterling and Leroy Sane out injured and Bernardo Silva unlikely to start, the onus will be on Mahrez to provide that flair in the final third. The Algerian has steadily improved under Guardiola, having notably been involved in 21 goals in 33 matches this season.
And against a turbulent West Ham defence, this could be an excellent opportunity for Mahrez to make a mark. His trickery on the right-hand side could cause problems for Masuaku, who is often guilty of losing his markers way too easily.
Therefore, West Ham must keep a close eye on Mahrez if they are to have any hopes of containing the mighty Manchester City attack this midweek.
Manchester City 2-0 West Ham United
Manchester City are somewhat fortunate to meet a struggling side like a West Ham after the UEFA bombshell earlier this month. Indeed, the Hammers have looked pretty clumsy and inconsistent. And playing away from home, we expect them to slump to yet another defeat against the defending champions.