A look ahead to West Ham

west ham preview

Roberto Mancini has spoken recently of the importance that December could hold in terms of City's ability to maintain a presence not only in the top four, but in the race for the title itself.

With victory against Bolton last weekend, the trip to Upton Park tomorrow presents a great opportunity for City create a platform to back up Mancini's words and cement their position in the table even further.

Not only have City been picking points up of late, but other sides at the top end of the table have struggled and dropped points on a consistent basis. With the way this weekend fixtures fall, by the time City come off the pitch at 4.45 on Saturday they sit level at the top of the table with Tottenham v Chelsea and United v Arsenal to follow on Sunday and Monday; meaning that points will be dropped by some, if not all of the nearest rivals.

It is not often that opportunities such as these present themselves, and whilst away form has been sketchy at times, the side can ill afford to drop points at such a crucial stage.

Both Aleksandar Kolarov and Carlos Tevez will be absent following a sending-off and yellow card respectively against Bolton last weekend, and it is the absence of Tevez and his ten goals this season that is being most keenly debated.

So often the talismanic figure of the side and scorer of crucial, game winning goals, there is an apprehension caused by his absence such is the perceived reliance on his presence in the side. Make no mistake, his loss is huge and the attack will have a less formidable presence for sure, but the statistics do not suggest the drop off in points return is marked when the name Tevez is not present on the teamsheet.

Certainly the spell last season where Tevez was away on compassionate leave saw the side continue to pick up points without him, but there is no doubt that there is a psychological effect to him not being in the side that they must overcome.

What formation will Mancini adopt then? Often without Tevez he has opted for a 4-4-2 but whilst Mario Balotelli has become a fixture in the side of late, Emmanuel Adebayor has faded from the scene and neither Jo nor Roque Santa Cruz are trusted for genuinely important games; meaning the 4-5-1 is likely to be retained with Balotelli the lone striker and possibly Adam Johnson getting a start.

Since the defeat to Wolves, City have also put together a run of three games unbeaten away from home, with two impressive performances at West Brom and Fulham in particular.

West Ham are in a wretched patch of form however, with a defence that has often crumbled when conceding, and with City's dominance when going ahead in games clear, it is difficult to see anything other than three points if City do indeed get the first goal.

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