Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United face the most daunting trip in the Premier League on Wednesday night, when they travel to reigning champions and current second-placed team in the league, just a point behind Liverpool. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
While the onus will be on the Hammers not to change a winning team from Friday night’s 3-1 victory over stragglers Fulham at the Etihad Stadium, the temptation will be there for man revisiting his former home in Manchester for the first time. With options such as Manuel Lanzini, Samir Nasri and Fabian Balbuena returning from injury. In light of this, how will Pellegrini’s West Ham line up? Today, we tell you in our analysis.
GK: Lukasz Fabianski
In goal, as has been the case for every Premier League match this season for the Irons, will be Polish international Lukasz Fabianski. The 33-year-old was influential yet again three days ago, making a number of key saves as his team picked up their first triumph of any kind since Saturday 12 January.
RB: Ryan Fredericks
In the only change to the lineup from the Cottagers win we’re predicting, Ryan Fredericks will be starting at right-back on Wednesday. It was a huge surprise to see the defender miss out on making a third successive starting Xl on Friday and the experiment of bringing Pablo Zabaleta back failed to work. It was changed at half-time, with the 26-year-old impressing in the second half as the East Londoners triumphed 3-1.
RCB: Issa Diop
On the scoresheet that night was young Frenchman Issa Diop, scoring for the first time in the PL having started every game since late August. There will be little doubt over whether he starts or not, but where the real doubt lies is in who will be partnering him at left-centre-back.
LCB: Angelo Ogbonna
Despite the expected return of Fabian Balbuena to the matchday squad, we think Angelo Ogbonna will still be in there, making his 13th consecutive start in the absence of ‘The General.’ Ogbonna scored his first English top-flight goal in this fixture last term and would love another in what will probably be his last chance to stake a claim for a permanent centre-half spot.
LB: Aaron Cresswell
At left-back within Pellegrini’s tried and trusted back-four system, there isn’t much uncertainty at all over who will be in the starting team. Aaron Cresswell’s main rival for the position failed to even make the last 18 in the Friday Night Football, having overtaken him in the pecking order for good around the turn of the year.
RCDM: Mark Noble (C)
Moving into the midfield and we expect there to be a slight formation change here against one of the best attacks in the world in City’s, with club captain Mark Noble slotting back into a two protecting the defence, alongside Declan Rice. The 31-year-old club captain is in for a tough night in Manchester, but will relish the challenge.
LCDM: Declan Rice
Ironically, to the left of Noble in left-central-defensive-midfield will be the man being linked to City in a £70-million summer move. Rice, who’s recently pledged his international allegiance to England, scored his first senior goal against another “Big Six” opponent last month and will be hungry for one or two more this time around.
RAM: Michail Antonio
Playing at the start of what will be a line of three attacking midfielders for the Hammers will be Michail Antonio, a player City will be marking as a “danger man” for this match. This is down to the 28-year-old netting two in his last three and appearing to be back to his best once again. He really could do some damage to the Blue Moon title challenge.
CAM: Robert Snodgrass
Looking to capitalise on some tired legs in the midfield and defence of the hosts, after they went through extra-time and penalties to lift the Carabao Cup on Sunday, will be Robert Snodgrass in the central-attacking-midfield role. The veteran, rejuvenated under Pellegrini, will be hoping to cause the same kind of mayhem he did on Friday from his deadly set-pieces.
LAM: Felipe Anderson
A run of 11 games and almost two months without a league goal has led some to believe Felipe Anderson is out of form, however, the club-record signing will still be one of the first names on the teamsheet at the Etihad. He will be very keen to bring that hoodoo to an end.
ST: Javier Hernandez
With Lanzini, Nasri and Marko Arnautovic now all back in the fold, what Javier Hernandez did on Friday, with his controversial 50th Premier League goal, was made it very difficult for his manager when selecting his team for this encounter. City are an opposition ex-Manchester United man Chicharito has taunted on many occasions and he is very much set to keep his starting place as the lone striker.
As aforementioned, we are predicting Pellegrini to slightly switch his formation up, going from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1 in order to offer the defence more protection with two holding midfielders (Noble and Rice) in front of it. This is formation he’s used frequently in his first term at London Stadium and it will be interesting to see how it fares against the preferred 4-3-3 of Guardiola.
So, now that you’ve heard our predicted West Ham starting Xl for the visit to the champions and title favourites Man City, all that’s left to do is to see if our prediction comes to fruition on Wednesday. And if it does, whether it will lead the Hammers to a first win at the Etihad since September 2015, when under the reign of Slaven Bilic.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the February issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.
Full-time Staff Writer for the Ronnie Dog Media Group, regularly edit and write articles on FBH, follow me on Twitter.