West Ham-Manchester City Preview: Back to business

With Manchester City’s surprise status as newly-minted title favorites, the pressure is on.

Following their 3-1 midweek win against Porto, Manchester City will look to continue getting results—with newly heightened expectations. City will face West Ham United in what promises to be a difficult fixture following the Hammers’ incredible comeback to draw 3-3 with Tottenham last time out. Following Virgil Van Dijk’s injury, City are once again among the favorites to lift the Premier League, despite a poor start to the season, and all the pressure will be on them to get a result.

We got the opportunity to discuss the upcoming match with Green Street Hammers‘ Henry Tomlinson (@HenryTSport on Twitter), and it should provide a compelling insight into how the opposition view this game.

1.) After that Spurs result, West Ham must believe that anything is possible. How high can the Hammers finish this year?
“For West Ham, the aim is still very much get to forty points as quick as possible and then go from there. The result against Spurs was brilliant in the way it happened; it will go down in Hammers folklore for sure. At the start of the season, the club’s aims were simply survival, especially after the lack of investment in the squad. But after our good start to the season, it would be nice to go through the season without the worry of relegation at any point. If West Ham gets to forty points and there is still a fair amount of games left it would be nice to see some young players be given chances and focus on the FA Cup.”

2.) If West Ham are going to get a result against City, what needs to happen?
“For the Hammers to get a result against City, they will need to be perfect, and City will have to have an off day. There is a fear of City amongst fans due to the hammerings they have given West Ham in recent years. The Hammers defence will need to be on top form from the off or City could punish them as Tottenham did for the first sixteen minutes of the match.”

3.) Who are you most worried about from this City side?
“Everyone haha. In all seriousness, the attack of City is what concerns me the most. Sterling and Aguero are brilliant goalscorers; Hammers fans have experienced this first-hand. Kevin De Bruyne is also an exceptional talent and is arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League at the very least. The ability the Belgian has to pick out attackers is superb, and if he and the rest of the city attack are on top form, there’s not a lot of defenders that can stop them.”

4.) Last year, both City and West Ham were very talented squads that underachieved given their respective expectations. What has been the catalyst behind a really good start to the season for West Ham?
“What happened last year was a mixture of key injuries and low confidence. The injury of Lukasz Fabianski led to Roberto’s spell in goal which wrecked the whole season. This year David Moyes has had time with the squad, it is his first full season in charge, and he has got players working hard for the club. This work ethic has been a big factor in the recent successes that have seen the club climb into the top half of the table. Furthermore, Moyes has changed the system to a five at the back. This change has solidified the defence and also brought the best out of attackers like Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio and Pablo Fornals.”

5.) What West Ham player could spark a win for the Hammers in this match?
“Our best hope is Michail Antonio has a perfect game and can take his chances if he gets any. The makeshift striker has been in brilliant form since project restart. With the Citizen’s defence not on top form at the moment, Antonio could cause a lot of problems. Antonio may not be the prettiest or most technically gifted player. But the 30-year-old’s grit and power have seen him become one of the Leagues most dangerous strikers over the last couple of months. If Antonio can get the better of the City defence, then he could give the Hammers some hope of a positive result.”

6.) What would you say is this team’s defining feature or greatest strength?
“At the moment the greatest strength of the team is the midfield duo of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek. The duo has formed a terrific partnership in the centre of the pitch. Both players are defensively strong and have done a great job shielding the defence.
Not only do Rice and Soucek contribute at the back but are both comfortable going forward. Soucek has become Moyes’ new Fellaini and can be devastating at times in the air. Rice, on the other hand, is capable of some brilliant passing and also capable of popping up the odd goal.”

7.) Who are your favorite players that City and West Ham have shared over the years?
“There have been quite a few to play for both teams, Joe Hart, Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta are the most recent to have joined that list, having mixed success. West Ham fans have huge respect for Zaba and his work-rate and passion. The Argentine never put in less than 110% in claret & blue, even when he lost his pace. Hart and Nasri had a different experience during their time at the club. Nasri impressed but was injured a lot. Hart, on the other hand, was a calamity during his time in goal and would have gone down as one of the worst keepers in West Ham history, if not for Roberto’s spell lasts season. The main man though is, of course, Carlos Alberto Tevez. The striker is up there for as one of the most heroic players in West Ham history for what he contributed during the great escape. Craig Bellamy is another one that sticks out as he was such a reliable goalscorer for the club until City bought him.”

Match Prediction:
“It is hard to see anything other than a Manchester City victory; the recent record between the two sides is frighteningly in favour of the Citizens. Having said that the result on Sunday does build confidence. It is important not to forget that the Hammers beat Leicester 3-0 only a week after the foxes thrashed City. So logically, West Ham should brush aside City; however, that is not how football works. Despite Cities midweek UCL fixture, I do expect a win for the visitors, but not by the same extent as usual.”

1-3 to Manchester City