Going into their ninth round of Premier League action season West Ham vs. Manchester City has risen in significance, with both teams currently occupying places in the top four.
A statement I never envisaged saying a few months ago, but nevertheless it is a clash that could potentially see the Hammers, who occupy the last Champions League spot, go within a point of second-placed City.
The reigning Premier League champions have looked a little wobbly at times this season and after the frustration of dropping more points in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, they could be vulnerable to a liberated West Ham.
Sam Allardyce’s side were put to the sword in all four meetings with City last term, conceding 14 goals and only managing to score one. The Hammers have not beaten them in their last ten meetings in all competitions but that could be about to change.
This season is not like many others at West Ham, they have won four of their first eight Premier League matches – last season they won just four of their opening 23 – and they are scoring for fun at the moment, too, as optimism and confidence continues to grow.
City’s league form has been formidable, though, and no team has earned more away points than their ten so far this campaign.
Sergio Aguero is on hot form following his sublime display against Tottenham last weekend where his four goals ensured them of victory. But the Irons have a star striker of their own– Diafra Sakho – and he scored for the fifth consecutive league game against Burnley last time out.
He and Enner Valencia will be able to cause the City defence problems they never encountered against West Ham last season and their input could be pivotal to the result.
Key players return
West Ham have midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate and defender James Tomkins available again after groin and thigh injuries respectively and both players are expected to be thrown straight back into the mix.
A midfield trio of Kouyate, Alex Song and Mark Noble, with the rejuvenated Stewart Downing playing in front of them will provide a great platform for the side to go and cause a shock against City.
With the impressive Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson resuming their positions at full-back, the rest of the team picks itself at the moment. Allardyce shouldn’t dare fiddle with a winning formula and the way the Hammers have set up recently they will be able to hurt City on the break.
West Ham will be going into the game full of confidence as they look for a third win on the spin at home and having already recorded an impressive victory over Liverpool – while being unlucky not to get anything out of games against Manchester United and Tottenham – they may be able to nick a result providing they don't give away anything cheap.
Predicted West Ham starting XI vs. Manchester City: Adrian, Jenkinson, Reid, Tomkins, Cresswell; Noble, Song, Kouyate, Downing; Valencia, Sakho