Runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City welcome surprise package West Ham to The Etihad on Saturday. Mark O'Haire picks out his favourite play...
"Since losing 2-5 against Leicester in September, Man City have conceded just three goals in 15 home games in all competitions (W13-D2-L0)"
Manchester City v West Ham
Saturday February 27, 12:30
Manchester City ease past Gladbach
Man City boss Pep Guardiola said his side "have to be more clinical" despite seeing another dominant display sweep aside Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Wednesday night in Budapest. The 2-0 first leg success in the last 16 was the Citizens' 19th successive win and puts the Premier League leaders in a commanding position to qualify.
Guardiola's team - favourites to win their first Champions League title this season - were far too good for their meek opposition, and perhaps should have added to their advantage. Bernardo Silva headed in a wonderful cross from Joao Cancelo to open the scoring, before the same two players combined to lay on the second for Gabriel Jesus after the interval.
And Guardiola said, "In general, we controlled the game. Unfortunately, we were not clinical enough up front. That is something we have to improve in this competition. Up front we have to be more clinical. In this competition you have to be perfect to make sure you go through." The City may rotate his options on Saturday with Nathan Ake the only absentee.
West Ham flying-high
West Ham manager David Moyes said his side "haven't hit top gear yet" despite climbing into the top four of the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over London rivals Tottenham last weekend. Goals early in each half from Michail Antonio and Jesse Lingard gave the Hammers a two-goal cushion at London Stadium, before Spurs reduced the arrears.
Gareth Bale and Son Heung-min both struck the woodwork for Tottenham in the second half, but West Ham held on for their seventh win in nine league games. The Hammers had looked much sharper from the off with the pace and physicality of the returning Antonio proving particularly problematic for their out-of-form visitors.
Moyes recently admitted to feeling "uneasy" when discussing the Hammers' place near the top of the table but the Scot was proud of his side post-match, saying: "The players have been finding ways to wrestle points off the opposition. They have done a brilliant job. You need a bit of luck along the way but we had all the right things going for us."
Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League meetings with West Ham (W8-D2-L0) since a 1-2 home loss in September 2015. The Citizens have taken top honours in 10 of their last 11 Etihad encounters with the Hammers (W10-D0-L1), although the hosts were held to a 1-1 draw when the two teams locked horns in the capital back in October.
Since losing 2-5 against Leicester in September, Man City 1.261/4 have conceded just three goals in 15 home games in all competitions (W13-D2-L0). The Citizens have won their last six Premier League home games without conceding and are looking to record the sixth ever run of 14 consecutive top-flight victories. Pep Guardiola's group are 10 points clear at the top.
Only Man City (33) have won more Premier League points so far in 2021 than West Ham (22), who have posted impressive W7-D1-L1 figures this calendar year. The Hammers 14.0013/1 have suffered only four defeats in 23 Premier League matches since mid-September (W13-D6-L4). However, David Moyes' men have W1-D1-L4 against top-six rivals.
With Man City recording 13 clean sheets in their past 17 Premier League outings, as well as their aforementioned defensive fortitude at The Etihad, goal-heavy games haven't proven as commonplace as previous campaigns for the Citizens. Surprisingly, only 36% of the hosts' league outings have featured Over 2.5 Goals 1.584/7, the third-lowest success rate.
Unusually, West Ham sit joint-top of the tree for successful Over 2.5 Goals selections, mind. Overall, 16/25 (64%) of the Hammers outings have produced three or more goals, including 8/12 (67%) on their travels. Six of the visitors' most recent seven also paid out for goals-based backers suggesting a repeat could be on the cards for the weekend curtain-raiser.
But I'm instead going to take Man City to win and Under 3.5 Goals for a 1.9620/21 shot. With the hosts enduring a quick turnaround from their Wednesday night trip to Budapest, patience, control and monopolisation of possession are bound to be key principles in the Citizens' approach, leaving West Ham with limited opportunity in transition.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 108.00 pts
Returned: 114.12 pts