Inching closer through the doldrums of winter, Manchester City visit East London to face a 6th place and very venomous West Ham side.
Fresh from a convincing 4-0 victory at home against Crystal Palace, City look to etch their first back to back league win since October. They've gone unbeaten in their last five league matches, including getting the monkey off of their backs with a road victory against Watford -- But the Hammers will provide a serious test for a City squad seeking to reach the top of the league at the conclusion of the weekend.
West Ham are coming off a loss after four straight wins as Newcastle took 23 shots in their toppling of West Ham in Tyneside last weekend. In said victory were two goals that saw the Magpies' most recent signing Jonjo Shelvey make enormous contribution from box to box, the midfield that City possesses will have to do a bang up job if they want to leave London unscathed, a task that it has been a tad shaky in doing over the last month. Fortunately for City, West Ham will be without striker Diafra Sahko, who has been the nightmare that haunts the Manchester back line for the last two victories West Ham have had over them.
Fernandinho looks to return to the pitch after some time off with a knock, and although Fabian Delph has been doing a fantastic job in his stead, expect the Brazilian midfielder to make an appearance. Delph, who had a fantastic strike from long range in last weekend's Palace win, could partner with Fernandinho in the middle of the park, but being that they're very similar in type, it wouldn't surprise in the least if the "tuned in" Yaya Toure made his way to the starting line up.
Defensively, the Blues will have the luxury of having both sets of right backs available. Aleksandar Kolarov will miss the match with a calf injury while the partnership of Otamendi and Demichelis will be charged with the duty of keeping out the pace Enner Valencia and Cheik Kouyate. Dmitri Payet will look to dazzle in the same fashion that he did in West Ham's 2-1 win at the Etihad in September, as Slaven Bilic's team will most certainly keep their foot on the pedal at home.
City will once again look for Sergio Aguero to lead the charge at the top, while Raheem Sterling, who has seen limited action over the last few games will most likely appear on the left side. One person of interest is David Silva, who if we must admit, has not looked himself over the last month since returning from injury. Silva did score against Palace after being set up by Aguero for a smooth tap in, but his passing must be more efficient as his creativity and vision are invaluable in the final third.
City will have a tough road ahead of them, but Manuel Pellegrini must prove that he can not only feed off of the bottom half of the league, but win against the best sides in the country. His record against the top clubs has been less than stellar this season, and City have the opportunity to build on momentum that seems to stall at any given moment. West Ham will no doubt attempt to scalp and take the double from City, and given the away team's form there's no reason to say that it isn't a possibility. Here's to resilience.
West Ham United FC vs. Manchester City FC
Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, London UK
Referee: Craig Pawson
Manchester City Form: WDWLW
West Ham Form: WWWWL