Game preview and thread: Manchester City v West Ham

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City at Ewood Park on April 25, 2011 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

A huge opportunity then. Tottenham's contentious defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier today means that victory tomorrow will City see open up a seven-point lead with just four games remaining. Not unassailable (especially with the May 10th fixture still to come) but it would need a mighty collapse for City not to go on and lock up fourth spot should they come away with the points tomorrow.

West Ham come into the game on the back of four successive defeats and with just four games remaining are in danger of slipping out of the Premier League, but with results elsewhere so far know that a win could lift them out of the bottom three.

West Ham's  away record this season far from suggests they are capable of springing a surprise win however, winning just 2 of their 17 games on the road this season - and have also never won at The City of Manchester Stadium. They also rank low amongst the Premier League in terms of goals, ranking 17th in goals for (39) and 18th in goals against (61). A note of caution however: City have failed to win back to back Premier League games since New Years Day.

Regular readers will also know my favouritism for the stat that shows how teams perform dependent upon who scores first, and it does not make pretty reading for West Ham should City score first (which they are wont to do at the City of Manchester Stadium) having W1 D5 L13 when falling behind. Even when scoring first it does not bode well, ranking dead last in the Premier League with a record of W6 D4 L3.

Following his winner at Blackburn, Roberto Mancini may decide to go with the 'hot hand' which would likely mean Mario Balotelli dropping to the bench, otherwise you'd expect little or no changes from the side that took the points last Monday.

Interestingly for two sides at opposite ends of the table, West Ham have out shot City this season (11 per game compared to 9.6) but City's effectivenes is superior (16% in comparison to West Ham's 10%). At home, City very much favour shots inside the box: 63% compared to 37% inside whilst away from home West Ham are less inclined to shooting outside the box (just 45% of the time).

It is difficult to see City slipping up tomorrow, particularly with the opportunity they now have with so few games remaining and despite concerns at their play on the whole at Blackburn, West Ham's defence looks far from strong enough and home advantage will likely be key with City posting five clean sheets from their past seven games and taking 19 out of 21 points at home.

Some stats (per game) from the season to date (City's home figure on the left, West Ham's away figure on the right):

1.8 Goals 0.9
11 Shots 11
1.5 Yellow Cards 1.9
0.2 Red Cards 0.1
7.8 Corners 4.5
13 Fouls 13
2.9 Offsides 3
22 Throw ins 22
53% Aerial Duel Success 52%
52% Ball Possession 44%
83% Pass success 76%  

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