The Big Match Tactical View: Manchester City v West Ham

Can Edin Dzeko strike again?
Can Edin Dzeko strike again?
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A win guarantees Manchester City the Premier League title - and even an unlikely draw would be enough too. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action...

"Once City are assured of the win, they might ease up rather than attempting to build up a huge scoreline."

Manchester City to win 3-0 at 9.08/1

Manchester City v West Ham
Sunday 15:00, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Manchester City 1.21/5, West Ham 18.017/1, The Draw 9.08/1.

After an incredible season of ups and downs, twists and turns and astonishing late collapses, the situation at the top of the Premier League is finally clear. If Manchester City defeat West Ham, they are champions - and Manuel Pellegrini's side are 1.21/5 favourites to record a victory here.

This means Liverpool's hopes rest entirely on West Ham getting a result - and while this seems unlikely, all four of West Ham's attacking players are likely to be giving 100% for the Reds' cause. 

That quartet is likely to feature two ex-Liverpool players, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll, a boyhood Liverpool fan, captain Kevin Nolan, and Mohamed Diame, who has recently linked himself with a move to Liverpool.

"I can't tell you if I will be a Liverpool player next season," Diame recently said.

"But I think my name is still on their wanted list. I don't hide it, I'm ambitious and I want to join a top-six side."

A late winner here, and Liverpool would probably sign him simply by way of thanks.

This is all about Manchester City, however, and it's worth remembering that they don't actually need a victory. A draw would seal the title (assuming Liverpool don't beat Newcastle by 13 goals), although Pellegrini will surely name an attacking side and be confident of recording a victory. There's a decision to be made at left-back, where Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy have rotated all season - the former played against Aston Villa in midweek so could be left out in favour of the Frenchman, but Kolarov is a better player going forward, so could be needed here. 

It's unlikely Sergio Aguero will be fit to start, so David Silva, Samir Nasri and James Milner will probably continue behind Edin Dzeko, with Yaya Toure breaking forward from deep. It's odd that Javi Garcia, rather than Fernandinho, has been favoured in the holding role recently and the Brazilian should return.

The only potential wildcard is Stevan Jovetic, who made another impressive substitute impact in the 4-0 win over Aston Villa. He's had an injury-hit season, and the only two matches he's started have finished 0-0 - but he could provide an Aguero-esque impact from that attacking band of three, which otherwise doesn't contribute many goals on paper.

City's best route to goal is by building up play through the centre, then spreading it wide to get around West Ham's narrow defence. They did this excellently against Villa in midweek, with Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta repeatedly motoring forward before sending crosses into the box. Dzeko will be the main goal threat, but both Silva and Toure got themselves into decent positions in midweek too - Toure has a habit of scoring late goals, adding to a convincing victory.

West Ham's main threat will come from set-pieces, long balls and crosses - pretty much any situation where Carroll can nod the ball down to Nolan. This shouldn't cause City huge problems, though - Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis are both solid in the air, and encounter difficulties against clever forwards that take up deeper positions. West Ham don't have anyone in that mould, so a Manchester City clean sheet is odds-on.

It's difficult to see anything other than a Manchester City victory, although once they're assured of the win, they might ease up rather than attempting to build up a huge scoreline. A 3-0 home victory, at 9.08/1, looks a good bet.

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Manchester City to win 3-0 at 9.08/1

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Can Sam Allardyce apply 19th century tactics, stop Manchester City scoring and create a final day of drama? Alas, I suspect it’s unlikely as City have already put 12 goals past West Ham this season, three in the league and nine in the Carling Cup.

Man City all but secured the title on Wednesday evening with a dominant second-half display against Aston Villa. Paul Lambert's side managed to restrict City to only one shot on target in the first-half but once the first goal went in it was a case of how many. Manuel Pellegrini's men have only lost once at the Etihad this season (Chelsea 0-1) but they have scored in every one of the other 17 games, accumulating an incredible 61 of their 100 goals this season in the process, averaging 3.39 goals per game.

With only one point achieved in fixtures against the top-five in the league this season it’s difficult to make a case for West Ham getting anything out of this. They come into the match knowing the club are safely in the Premier League next season. Sam Allardyce however, has come under intense pressure lately and many think this could be his last game in charge of the Hammers.

I think City will have learned from the QPR experience two seasons ago and will want to put this one away long before the 90th minute. Toure’s wonder goal on Wednesday was City’s 100th of the campaign. The Ivorian has scored the opening goal at the Etihad three times this season and I will be backing him to get the 101st at anything around 6.

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