Manchester City vs. West Ham United – prediction, team news, lineups Fresh from winning the EFL Cup at Wembley on Sunday, Manchester City will turn their attention back to their Premier League title tilt when they welcome West Ham United to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.
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The champions were knocked off top spot while collecting their first piece of silverware this season and take on one of their former title-winning managers here as Manuel Pellegrini returns to the Etihad.Leg one of a potential quadruple has been completed, making the ‘impossible’ task that bit more achievable for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Not that you would have thought it from the City manager’s demeanour. In the post-match press conference he spoke in a far more deflated tone than his beaten Chelsea counterpart Maurizio Sarri and, while he insisted he was happy, his grumbles about injuries and the fixture schedule suggested that success in the EFL Cup came at a cost he was not entirely pleased with.
Of course, that could also be construed as a clear message to his players that he is not satisfied with just EFL Cup glory, and only three days after going the distance with extra time and penalties at Wembley, City must refocus back onto the Premier League for the first time since February 10.
The deficit to leaders Liverpool has been cut from seven points to one in recent weeks, but the champions are still reliant on Jurgen Klopp’s side dropping points over the final 11 games of the season if they are to retain the title.
Three of the past five winners of the EFL Cup have gone on to lift the Premier League too – including City under both managers that will be in the dugouts on Wednesday – and while Guardiola insisted that Liverpool are still favourites, the momentum appears to be behind the defending champions.
Including Sunday’s shootout win over Chelsea at Wembley, City have now won each of their last six games and 14 of their last 15 across all competitions, whereas Liverpool have drawn four of their last five and have only won three of their nine outings so far in 2019.
Guardiola’s concerns over his growing injury list are not without merit, though, and while his squad depth is the envy of almost every other manager in world football, the one player he arguably could not afford to lose was Fernandinho, who is expected to miss at least four games.
Fernandinho’s last spell of enforced absence saw City slump to back-to-back defeats at the hands of Crystal Palace and Leicester City, so the prospect of him missing matches in the title run-in and the Champions League will not be a welcome one for the champions.
Even so, City will be overwhelming favourites to win again on Wednesday night having emerged victorious from all seven of their home games so far this calendar year, scoring a whopping 35 goals and conceding just twice in the process.Pellegrini knows exactly the impact a League Cup triumph can have on a team in the title race, but that is something he is now tasked with stopping on Wednesday night.
The Hammers are currently in a battle to record just their second top-half finish in the past six seasons, with Friday night’s 3-1 win over Fulham leaving them in ninth place.
Pellegrini will very much be looking up the table than down it right now, and qualification for Europe next season remains a distinct possibility with only four points separating them from seventh.
Such a finish would equal their highest position since 1998-99, and with their next four games after Wednesday coming against teams in the bottom half, that is a target they can really push for over the next month.
Victory over Fulham last time out ended a five-match winless streak for the Hammers across all competitions, and should they spring a major shock at the Etihad then it would be back-to-back league wins for the first time since December 15.
West Ham’s record against City in recent times has been poor, but they have already taken points off Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal this season, so have proved that they can mix it with the big boys when on form.
Doing the same at the Etihad is a long shot, though, particularly considering West Ham’s poor recent away record. Pellegrini’s side have won none and lost four of their last five matches on the road, failing to even score in three of those.
It is an issue they will need to solve if they are to achieve their goal of seventh place, but that will take a few more upsets along the way with five of their remaining six away league games coming against teams above them in the table – including four of the top six.
West Ham have not beaten one of that top six away from home in the league since August 2015, and not too many people will be expecting them to end that run and add another twist to the title race on Wednesday.
Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho will both miss out after limping off against the Blues on Sunday. John Stones and Benjamin Mendy remain out, so City are somewhat short of defensive cover.
Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling – who all scored in that shoot-out at Wembley – played the full 120 minutes against Chelsea. All three men could be at risk of rotation here, for City have a hectic schedule ahead.
Fabian Balbuena, Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko and Carlos Sanchez are all long-term injury absentees for the Hammers.
There have been at least three goals scored in each of City’s last 10 Premier League matches on home soil and eight of those fixtures featured at least four goals. There is, therefore, plenty of potential for an explosive encounter at Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City West Ham graphic
SportPesa offer just 1/3 (1.34) that there are more than two goals in the game. The same firm go 20/23 (1.87) that there are at least four goals scored.
City, though, have kept a clean sheet in just two of their last nine home Premier League matches.
Furthermore, West Ham have scored in seven of their last nine games and fired three past Fulham on Friday night. SportPesa offer 20/23 (1.87) that both teams are on target in this match.
However, West Ham have failed to score in their last three league defeats away from home and City, meanwhile, have conceded just once in their last six home matches in all competitions.
SportPesa’s even money (2.0) quote for Manchester City to win to nil, then, may prove popular with punters on Wednesday night.