Wednesday 1st February- 19:45-BT Sport 1HD
It has been a torrid time for West Ham, playing Man City this season. At the start of January, they were on the receiving end of a 5-0 thrashing at the London Stadium, and at the moment they are sitting on an aggregate score of 1-8 vs City this season. This will also be West Ham’s first game without their former talisman Dimitri Payet.
It was revealed that Payet had not spoken to his teammates for 8 weeks, in the wrangle over wanting to leave the club. He had declared he no longer wanted to play for the Hammers, and his move was completed on Sunday. While the sale will have dented the pride of West Ham fans, Slaven Bilic would not have green lit the move unless their was a replacement in place. The £10.2 million signing of Robert Snodgrass from Hull City may end up being one of the shrewdest transfers of the entire January window. While Snodgrass doesn’t have the same kind of talent as the departed Payet, he is still a game changer. He has kept Hull competitive in the relegation zone, and he has either scored or assisted half of Hull’s 20 league goals this season.
West Ham also completed the signing of Southampton captain Jose Fonte. The Euro 2016 winner was linked with Manchester United, and Bilic managed to get him in for £8 million. With Angelo Ogbonna out for the rest of the season, Fonte not only brings defensive cover, but Premiership experience. He can help to stabilise a defence that has conceded 36 goals thus far.
West Ham have also won their last 2 games in the league and this has taken them from 13th in the league at the start of the month, up to sitting in 10th now. If results go their way, they can move up to 9th in the league.
Both Fonte and Snodgrass will be available for selection for Wednesdays visit of City, and it is expected that both will slot straight into the West Ham team. Andy Carroll should return from a groin injury in time, while Mark Noble is a doubt with an ankle injury.
As mentioned, Angelo Ogbonna has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Diafra sakho (back) is side-lined until March, with Arthur Masuaku (knee), Gokhan Tore (knee) and Alvaro Arbeloa (calf) all likely out as well.
While Guardiola’s team have progressed to the last 16 of the FA Cup, in the time since they beat West Ham 5-0, they have struggled in the league. They have fallen from third to fifth in that time, and have not won their last 2 league games. Although there performance was much improved against Spurs, from the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Everton.
City will need to be wary of the set piece threat that West Ham will present, especially with the addition of dead ball specialist Snodgrass. They have struggled defensively and have conceded the most goals in the top 6. City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has faced nine shots on target in 2017 and saved only one of them, conceding eight goals, he also hasn’t made a save since January 2nd.
They will know this is a great opportunity to gain some ground in the league to get back amongst the top 4 pack with Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs all dropping points on Tuesday night. A win will see them level on points with Liverpool in 4th, just 1 point behind Arsenal and Tottenham.
The big news for City is the return of Fernandinho from suspension. The Brazilian has had discipline problems this season, but he is an important player for Manchester City and they are a better side when he is available. He is an excellent midfielder and one of the few players in the squad that can successfully carry out Guardiola’s game plan, with others lacking the stamina and tactical understanding. City’s midfield has been a problem in recent weeks as they have been missing their starting two central midfielders. Although Ilkay Gundogan won’t be available for a while, the return of Fernandinho will improve City and they should now have a side that is able to dominate matches consistently. Guardiola will need to make sure that his midfielder is more careful in terms of tackling and if he can control that side to his game, things should improve for City.
Guardiola himself outlined the Brazilians importance to the City side, in his pre-match press conference:
“He’s so important, We’ve played a lot of games without him, and I’m happy he’s back.”
“He’s not an aggressive player. He’s tough. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. We accept the ban and don’t complain.”
While Fernandinho is available, fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan will miss out. While Sergio Aguero will face a fitness test, after missing Saturday’s FA Cup win over Crystal Palace through injury.
Other Wednesday night games:
Manchester United v Hull City
Stoke City v Everton
By Rich Lee@RichLee2202