Man City vs. West Ham United
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Kick off: 5:30PM
Manchester City head into today’s Premier League fixture with West Ham United looking to extend their advantage over third-placed Leicester City to five points.
With Man City sitting 22 points adrift of leaders Liverpool, Pep Guardiola has been the first to acknowledge that his side are not active in the title race, effectively bringing to an end their two-year reign with three months of the season remaining.
Nevertheless, City’s recent setbacks, in theory, will only provide extra motivation for Guardiola as he attempts to win silverware in other competitions and begin to contemplate ways to improve his squad in the summer.
Strengthening a defence which has missed Aymeric Laporte for the majority of the season will be at the top of his list of priorities, rather than having concerns over a misfiring attack.
While City thrashed a Fulham side who were hindered by a sixth-minute dismissal, they have netted just three times in their other four matches, which includes drawing a blank against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
However, on another day, the likes of Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling could have netted at least two goals apiece, instead of squandering opportunities which kept their respective opponents in the contest.
Sterling will miss out at the weekend through injury – likely a consequence of being involved in 40 matches for club and country since the beginning of August.
That said, his absence provides Guardiola with a chance to rid himself of an over-reliance on the winger, potentially providing Phil Foden with a pathway to make just his third Premier League start of the season.
If the young Englishman is to replace the departing David Silva next season, matches such as this one are perfect opportunities for Guardiola to hand the academy graduate further experience in the top flight.
Despite City being able to play with a certain degree of freedom at the weekend, the same cannot be said of West Ham, who travel to the Etihad desperately short of confidence.
For the majority of their contest with Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend, it appeared that David Moyes was going to see his side end a five-match winless streak in all competitions.
However, conceding two late goals resulted in the game ending in a 3-3 draw, leaving Moyes torn as to how to approach a game of this level after dropping into the bottom three.
In their recent games with Leicester City and Liverpool, Moyes has struggled to find the correct balance, with a significant change in strategy being required at the midway point of the first of those fixtures.
The Scot will probably feel that there is enough quality in his attack to score goals against a struggling City backline, although the newly-appointed boss may be lacking faith in his own defenders to put up enough of a fight at the other end.
The sole plus point from last week’s game was Robert Snodgrass contributing two goals and an assist, extending his tally to five and four in those respective categories for the campaign.
While there have been several big-name arrivals over the last 18 months, the 32-year-old has emerged as West Ham’s most creative player this season, effectively making him the most important attacker in the squad.
However, with trips to City, Liverpool and Arsenal all to come in their next four games, there is the possibility of Snodgrass being left powerless to prevent West Ham from being cut adrift in the battle to avoid relegation to the Championship.
Man City possible XI: Ederson, Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Mendy, De Bruyne, Rodri, Foden, Bernardo, Aguero, Mahrez.
West Ham possible XI: Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Noble, Snodgrass, Antonio, Haller.