The Big Match Tactical View: Manchester City v West Ham

Sergio Aguero has a fine record against West Ham
Sergio Aguero has a fine record against West Ham
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The final Premier League fixture of the weekend sees Pep Guardiola trying to extend his winning start to life in the Premier League. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson predict three more points...

"West Ham have scored in their last 15 Premier League matches"

Manchester City v West Ham
Sunday, 16:00
Live Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: Manchester City 1.330/100, West Ham 12.011/1, The Draw 6.611/2.

Pep Guardiola
boasts a 100% record as Manchester City manager so far - and there's little reason to think he won't extend that run with a comfortable victory over West Ham United on Sunday afternoon.

West Ham defeated City in this fixture last season, but under Guardiola City are an entirely different proposition - more organised and seemingly more motivated too. It will take something completely unexpected to cause an upset here.

The main talking point at City is the identity of their goalkeeper, but with Claudio Bravo not yet considered for selection, Willy Caballero is likely to return to the starting XI after Joe Hart was given a midweek outing in the victory over Steaua Bucherest.

Although Guardiola seemingly wants to sell Hart because he's unconvinced about the goalkeeper's distribution, Caballero hasn't looked much better in that respect, and West Ham might look to put him under pressure here.

Guardiola's back four still lacks Vincent Kompany, with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi set to play at the heart of the defence, and Bacary Sagna and Aleksandar Kolarov playing the peculiar 'wing-half' roles, drifting from full-back positions to become extra central midfielders. Holding midfielder Fernandinho sometimes drops back between the centre-backs to form a back three, although this is probably unnecessary against West Ham.

That defensive structure allows David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne to push forward from conventional central midfield roles into something more like number 10 roles, while Raheem Sterling and Nolito will stretch the play either side of Sergio Aguero. It's unquestionably an unusual system, but it appears to be working very nicely.

City are opening up gaps in the opopsition, and playing through them quickly - though it remains to be seen how the defensive section of the side copes against a good counter-attacking side.

West Ham played on the break last season, with Dimitri Payet inspirational. He'll need to turn in another good performance if Slaven Bilic's side are to take anything from this game, although with his slow start to the campaign after recovering from his Euro 2016 exerts, it remains to be seen whether he had the sharpness to replicate last season's heroics.

But West Ham have huge injury problems. Diafra Sakho, Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew are all out, meaning Jonathan Calleri will have a lonely time upfront, while Sofiane Feghouli, Harvard Nordveit, Manuel Lanzini and even Payet are considered doubtful, leaving the Hammers short in midfield too. With Aaron Cresswell yet another unavailable, meaning Arthur Masuaku will start at left-back, Bilic has serious problems.

Mark Noble and Cheick Kouyate are likely to protect the defence, with Payet as the number 10, and Gokhan Tore and Michail Antonio - who combined for the winner against Bournemouth last weekend in the first game at the London Stadium - the dynamic attacking threats behind Calleri, who will struggle to receive much service.

It's difficult to see where West Ham will cause problems here - perhaps the speed of the wingers on the break - but they'll also be dragged into central positions by the peculiar movement of City's full-backs, and might find it difficult to spring forward into space.

This should be an easy City victory. Aguero has a fine record against West Ham, with six goals and two assists in seven appearances. Perhaps the only question is whether West Ham will score: they've notched in their last 15 matches, a very impressive record, but that run will probably come to an end here, with City's possession play starving them of opportunities. Back City to win to nil at around 2.26/5.

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

Manchester City were well below standard last season, winning only one of their 14 games, home or away, against the sides that finished in the top eight positions. That of course included the Hammers, who took four points of City, winning 2-1 here and drawing 2-2 at the Boleyn Ground.

You can already sense though that this is a different City this season under the leadership of Pep Guardiola, Champions League qualification secured with a comprehensive result over Steaua Bucharest and two wins in the Premier League, they couldn't have done no any more. The Hammers were dumped out of the Europa League midweek and for the second consecutive season, they have failed to make the group stages of the competition. However, they didn’t do too badly last term and this could be a blessing in disguise.

Despite a huge drift in the match odds market prior to West Ham's game with Bournemouth, as Slaven Bilic’s injury problems started to be realised, West Ham still managed to take all the points thanks to a late header from makeshift striker Michail Antonio. This will be a much different encounter though and without some key players it is going to be extremely difficult.

Over the last two seasons, when Manchester City have started at a price less than 1.51/2 they have won 20 out of 21 games (ironically, the defeat was against West Ham last season). In those 21 games, City only failed to score at least twice in one game (again the 1-2 defeat against West Ham) and they won by a margin of two or more goals in 14 of the 21 games.

I will be looking to Back Manchester City to win on the Asian Handicap -1.5 & 2.0 at anything around 2.01/1.

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