West Ham slipped to sixth as their winning run came to an abrupt end against Newcastle, and the Hammers will attempt to keep their European hopes alive with a good performance against Manchester City. Buoyed by the 4-0 hammering of Crystal Palace, the Citizens will want to turn on the style at Boleyn Ground as well.
While Leicester City have stolen the headlines this season, West Ham have been nearly as impressive, having quickly gone from relegation strugglers to genuine top 6 contenders. Former Croatia coach Slaven Bilic and his brave approach are the main reasons behind this uptrend in fortunes, and we have to admit we have been impressed by the manner in which the Hammers responded to a serious dip in form. An eight-match winless run (D6 L2) finally came to an end as West Ham defeated Southampton in the final fixture in 2015, before going on to win three more matches in a row. The FA Cup triumph over Wolverhampton was sandwiched between league victories over Liverpool and Bournemouth that suggested that the top 4 bid may not be mission impossible after all. But, just as they were expected to pile more misery on out-of-sorts Newcastle United, West Ham produced one of the worst performances this season and now head into the clash with in-form Man City on the back of a 2-1 defeat at St James’ Park.
New signing Sam Byram could slot straight into the starting line-up, while Winston Reid should return to the side after recovering from injury.
Alex Song looks set to remain benched, whereas Manuel Lanzini, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho are not yet ready to return.
Even if they are currently just one point off the top of the standings, Manchester City cannot exactly be satisfied with how this season is panning out, having missed numerous opportunities to leapfrog the likes of Arsenal and Leicester City. The Citizens’ injury problems are well documented, but given the money the club bosses invested into the playing squad, that cannot be considered an excuse for the under-par showings. The good news is that Man City appear to have stabilised their form of late and finally showed some improvement at the back. For the first time since September, the Citizens managed to keep three clean sheets on the bounce, and having also scored seven goals in the process, they head into the West Ham clash in very good spirits. With Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Aguero all in good form at the moment, the Hammers back line will have their work cut out for them on Saturday afternoon.
Captain Vincent Kompany continues to miss out whereas, Eliaquim Mangala faces a fitness test, meaning that Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demichelis will continue their defensive partnership.
Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure should be recalled to the side, but Wilfried Bony, Fernandinho and Samir Nasri remain in the treatment room.
Key Factors to Consider
- Man City won nine of last thirteen meetings with West Ham
- Man City won three times on last five visits to Boleyn Ground (D1 L1)
- Last eight matches between the two sides produced 26 goals
- Man City kept three clean sheets in a row
- West Ham are unbeaten in last nine home games (W5 D4)
West Ham were well below par in the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United and they could find it hard to show a considerable improvement when facing in-form Manchester City. While their attack appears in fine working order, the Citizens have also patched up the leaky defence, so we are backing them to extend the good run against the Hammers.
Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 8/11
Bookmaker: William Hill