It starts now. 344 days after Sergio Agüero etched his name into Manchester City folklore the now ex-Champions of England are now back to square one. Manchester United’s slaughtering of Aston Villa on Monday had the same effect on City’s slim hopes of successfully defending the Premier League crown that now rests in the hands of their fiercest rivals. So, the quest to conquer United begins once again for Roberto Mancini. However, there are some short-term goals for the Italian to achieve with cementing a second placed finish the highest priority. Last weekends meek surrender at Tottenham left them just five points clear of third-placed Arsenal and Mancini will demand his team respond in devastating fashion when West Ham come to the Etihad Stadium.
The Hammers have hit form at the right time with a five-match unbeaten run aiding them in securing their Premier League status for next year. Last weekends win over Wigan was impressive in itself and followed draws against Manchester United and Liverpool. Sam Allardyce and his troops now have their ambitions fixed on a finishing the season strongly and doing so in the top-half.
On a separate note both sides will pay a special tribute to Marc-Vivien Foe, who passed away 10 years ago after collapsing on the pitch while representing Cameroon at the Confederations Cup. Foe played for City and West Ham in two separate spells and supporters will engage in an applause during the 23rd minute – the midfielders squad number.
Manchester City still have doubts over David Silva’s fitness after he missed the defeat at Tottenham with an ankle injury. James Milner (hamstring) is another facing a race against time to return to full health, while Sergio Agüero is pushing for a start.
West Ham are without defenders James Tomkins (calf) and George McCartney (knee) but are hopeful Mark Noble will be fit enough to start after stepping up his return from a shoulder problem with another cameo appearance against Wigan. Joe Cole is also pushing for a place in the Hammers’ first XI.
What the managers said…
“It doesn’t change this. They deserve to win this title because they won a lot of games in a row. The crucial moment was when we played QPR, Liverpool, Southampton. That moment we had big problems with our players injured. We lost key points. United have more attitude than us, as a club, as a team.” Roberto Mancini insists Man City’s confidence hasn’t been punctured after losing the Premier League title (Independent)
“You’re always chasing the master and he has been the master for so long – it is difficult to sustain success against him. Whenever he has a challenge, he may lose out once, but he comes back with flying colours. He’s had it with Chelsea and before that Arsenal. If they win the FA Cup and they finish second, it’s a very good season. When you win the league for the first time in so many (44) years it is very difficult to win it the second time round – no matter how much money you spend.” Sam Allardyce insists Man City will struggle to win the league while Sir Alex Ferguson is still at United (Daily Mail)
Pre-match Statistic: Manchester City have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League meetings with West Ham, winning seven.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 West Ham United