Manchester City will be aiming to increase their lead at the top of the Premier League table when they face West Ham United this weekend.

As we enter the final two rounds of fixtures in the 2021/22 Premier League race, the title race is keeping the fans on tenterhooks. Manchester City managed to pull ahead of Liverpool thanks to their 5-1 mauling of Wolves earlier this week, which came on the back of a 5-0 thumping of Newcastle United. It has allowed the current title holders to create a three-point gap, which they can extend to six this weekend.

With just two more games left to be played, there is absolutely no room for error for Manchester City, especially now that Liverpool will be extra motivated to give it their all after winning the FA Cup to complete the cup double. However, if the last two matches are anything to go by, the Cityzens seem to be picking up pace at the right time and could go all the way in the title race.

As for West Ham United, they broke a recent poor run of form with an impressive 4-0 win over Norwich City away from home. The Hammers are still in with a chance to finish sixth, with just three points separating them from Manchester United, who have played a game more. At the same time, failure to win the last two matches could see them drop out of the European spots if Wolves win their two.

West Ham United and Manchester City have come face to face twice already this season. The first encounter came in the Carabao Cup, with the Hammers eliminating the Cityzens via penalties in the Round of 16. But Guardiola’s side prevailed 2-1 a month later in their Premier League clash. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

West Ham United

Michail Antonio, Said Benrahma and Craig Dawson picked up knocks in the last game against Norwich City. But, Antonio and Dawson have returned to full training and are likely to be ready for Manchester City. However, Benrahma remains a doubt for West Ham United as they prepare to host the league leaders. Angelo Ogbonna is out for the season.

West Ham United will line up in their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. The veteran shot-stopper should be shielded by the centre-back pairing of Dawson and Kurt Zouma, while Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell take up the full-back slots on the right and left sides, respectively.

Moving into the middle of the park, there is no looking past Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek in the pivot positions. Captain Mark Noble will get a chance to feature from the bench in his final home game for the club as he will retire at the end of the season.

Manuel Lanzini will have the creative burden from the No. 10 position, with support coming from Pablo Fornals, who ought to move out to the left flank as question marks linger over Benrahma’s availability. Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio will carry the chief goal threat for the home team against Pep Guardiola’s side.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Lanzini, Fornals; Antonio

Manchester City

Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker and John Stones have been ruled out of the contest against West Ham United and might not feature again this season. Aymeric Laporte will be subject to a late fitness test to determine his availability, whereas captain Fernandinho is a doubt for the game.

So, Pep Guardiola will have some major decisions to make with regard to the selection in defence. Ederson Moraes is a guaranteed starter between the sticks for the visitors. With Laporte and Fernandinho likely to miss out, Rodri and Nathan Ake could end up forming the central defensive partnership for the reigning champions, flanked by the full-backs in Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Rodri moving into the defensive line should pave the way for Ilkay Gundogan to slot in as the deepest of the three central midfielders. He will be flanked by the duo of Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, who will provide the creativity and chance-creation for the Cityzens going forward.

Raheem Sterling, who was on target against Wolves, should move into the false-nine role on Sunday, allowing Riyad Mahrez to slot in on the right flank. Phil Foden should keep his place out on the left side, meaning Jack Grealish misses out of the starting XI again.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Rodri, Ake, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva; Mahrez, Sterling, Foden

Key Stats

  • Manchester City’s tally of 45 away points this season is the fourth-highest in Premier League history after Arsenal in 2001-02 (47), Chelsea in 2004-05 (48) and City themselves in 2017-18 (50).
  • West Ham United are without a victory in 12 Premier League games against Manchester City (D2 L10) since a 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium in September 2015.
  • After winning their first five games against West Ham United at the London Stadium across all competitions, Manchester City are winless in their last two trips to the Hammers’ home.
  • Jarrod Bowen is only the second West Ham player to register at least ten goals and ten assists in a Premier League season after Paolo Di Canio in 1999/00.
  • Manchester City star Raheem Sterling has been involved in 14 goals in 16 Premier League games against West Ham (eight goals, six assists), more than he has versus any other side. He has four goals and five assists in five appearances at the London Stadium.

Player to Watch

Kevin De Bruyne

With the title race going down to the wire, Manchester City needed their best players to step up and deliver the goods. And a certain Kevin De Bruyne has done just that. The Belgian superstar was just unstoppable against Wolves last time out as he plundered four goals. De Bruyne has eight goals and five assists in his previous eight league appearances.

This is his best goalscoring campaign for Manchester City in the league (15 goals) and all competitions (19). He has scored an unrivalled 57 Premier League career goals without any of them being headers. Expect him to do some serious damage in the remaining two fixtures to lead the Cityzens across the line in the race for the Premier League crown.

Prediction

West Ham United 1-2 Manchester City

West Ham United snapped their recent poor run of form with a resounding victory against Norwich City. However, they will be up against a Manchester City side raring to lift the Premier League after the heartbreak in the UEFA Champions League.

Injuries to Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho will further weaken an already thinly-stretched City defence. But the form that Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have been in, in the last couple of matches should help Pep Guardiola’s side clinch a crucial victory on Sunday, taking them a step closer to retaining their league title.

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