VMC Preview: West Ham v CITY
Saturday, 11th December
Despite West Ham's form and their position in the league, this game will be a real test without the talismanic influence of Carlos Tevez. Can City dispatch of the Hammers without their captain? Should be an interesting one.
'Maybe we don't meet Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal, but we are still playing against strong teams. This league is good, every game is difficult. The next four will be very important.
'We are playing well, and we must forget the game against Bolton - if we want to beat West Ham, we must score more goals.
'You cannot ever think that you have an easy game. If you do, it's a disaster. It's very difficult to go to Upton Park. They are a good team and don't deserve to be at the bottom.'
West Ham Team News:
Valon Behrami and Mark Noble are both out with hip problems with Noble not expected to return until the New Year. Behrami should make his comeback soon but the City game has is expected to come around too soon for the Swiss midfielder. This means that Jonathan Spector should partner Scott Parker in central midfield once again. Lars Jacobsen has been struggling with a heel problem recently and may sit out of the clash. Long term absentees Collison, de Costa and Hitzlsperger all remain sidelined for the rest of December at the very least.
Probable West Ham Team:
3) Ben Haim - 5) Tomkins - 15) Upson - 4) Gabbidon
12) Barrera - 18) Spector - 8) Parker - 13) Boa Morte
Player to watch: Victor Obinna
West Ham drastically lack penetration at the top of the pitch; they`ve only netted 14 times this season which is second worst in the league, only to Wigan. Parker and Piquionne have scored 8 of the fourteen whilst the rest have been chip-ins from the rest of the squad. Despite only scoring three goals this season; Victor Obinna has been a key player for the Hammers and was in sensational form against the Rags last week. He`s actually been quite unlucky - he`s managed thirteen shots on target in the league but has only scored once. Anyway, he`s been in good form of late and can cross brilliantly with both feet, the selected full backs will have to get their blocks in.
Manchester City Team News:
Mancini is without his captain, talisman and top scorer in Carlos Tevez. The Argentine is suspended for the return to his former club after picking up his fifty yellow card of the season against Bolton. Mario Balotelli is expected to lead the line in place of Tevez, just like he did against Salzburg. Therefore, there is place up for grabs in midfield which is likely to be contested between Adam Johnson and James Milner. I`d like to see Johnson given a chance to tear into the woeful West Ham defence, but I expect Mancini to be more conservative and employ Milner on the left of the front three.
Aleksandar Kolarov is also suspended after receiving two yellow cards last weekend, earning him a one match ban. The in-form Pablo Zabaleta will move to left back whilst the right back berth should be eagerly contested by Boateng and Richards. However, I really don`t know who will get the nod in this instance:
Probable City Team:
17) Boateng - 28) K Toure - 4) Kompany - 5) Zabaleta
18) Barry - 34) de Jong
21) Silva - 42) Yaya - 7) Milner
Player to watch: David Silva
There was a sense of excitement coupled with a slight feeling of doubt when David Silva was unveiled as a Manchester City player. His talent was obvious to all; he had just won a World Cup for god`s sake. But there were doubts about whether Silva would be able to successfully make the transition to Premier League football, and whether he would be able to cope with the physicality of the league. However, Silva settled quickly and has been consistently brilliant thus far; his technical ability, eye for a pass and the way in which he has evaded tacklers has seen him cause a number of problems to opposition back lines. Despite his impact, Silva has only netted once all campaign which is slightly disappointing, but this is down to his unselfish nature. Hopefully, the goals will start to come and I`m expecting him to shine flourish tomorrow. He`s certainly due a goal.
Match Facts & Stats
West Ham have a fine home league record against Manchester City, winning 24 of 42 all-time meetings at Upton Park. City have left with all three points on only 10 occasions.
Robert Green (98) has made more saves than any other keeper in the Premier League this season.
Only leaders Arsenal have scored more than City's 13 away goals, and picked up more than City's 14 away points this season.
Joe Hart has kept eight clean sheets this term, the equal best in the Premier League along with Chelsea's Petr Cech.
City have ended the last eight rounds of Premier League fixtures in fourth place.
Phil Dowd - One of the better referees around.
On paper, this game is no contest. But as the old cliche goes, 'football is not played on paper.' Balotelli will lead the line in the absence of Tevez which could easily go two ways. But I'm expecting him to rip the Hammers' defence to shreads - they really lack pace at the back, which Mario should exploit. Silva is another who I'm expecting to have a good game; he was brilliant against Bolton without seeing much of the ball so hopefully, if he gets a decent supply he should have a good game. Despite their league position, West Ham still have some influential players in Parker and Obinna. They will pose a threat but if we can stop them scoring then the three points should be coming home to Manchester. Prediction: West Ham 0 - 3 MCFC.
Thursday, 16th December v Juventus @ 19:00 (A) - EUROPE
Monday, 20th December v Everton @ 20:00 (H)