The tricky part of predicting this FA Cup tie is knowing who is going to be involved. Both West Ham and Manchester City will probably be looking to their benches after playing so many matches in quick succession over Christmas. We’re wondering who’s going to have a Christmas hangover at the London stadium on Friday.
One last Push
West Ham have made some progress during their punishing Christmas schedule, slowly scaling the Premier League table with wins against Burnley, Hull and Swansea.
Things didn’t work out so well against Leicester and Man United, but there’s finally a sense of a team coming together after a start to the season that was strewn with injury.
Carried by Carroll
The dominating centre-forward has become crucial to the Hammers’ setup. Even when he’s not scoring Carroll’s ability to disrupt defences and bring teammates into play gives West Ham’s attack a mighty focal point.
The downside of course is Carroll’s injury record. Put the former Liverpool striker up against Kolarov or John Stones and you’ve got a serious mismatch, but after the recent draining schedule Bilić might be wise to give Carroll a breather on Friday.
The problem there is the lack of backup, with rookie Ashley Fletcher and misfit Simone Zaza the only alternatives.
While the team disintegrated around him in the autumn the one player who kept turning in performances was Dimitri Payet. Some fans would accuse him of being lazy, but without his set-piece deliveries and moments of brilliance things could be a lot worse for West Ham right now.
And further cause for optimism is that with Carroll back in the side he has a partner who can complement him. Hammers fans will be praying that the club can keep hold their French star until the summer at least.
You get the sense that West Ham would have got back on the wagon a bit quicker if they managed to find one formation and stuck with it. Injuries have played a role here too, robbing the team of a right full-back and so forcing Bilić into a three man defence half the time.
An absurd roll-call of players have played at right full-back this season, among them Antonio, Arbeloa, Byram and now Nordtveit. Sam Byram looked like the man for that spot before his injury and could be back in the running for Friday’s game.
Feels like Home?
There are also signs that West Ham are starting to bed in at the London Stadium, with results slowly starting to turn after a dismal start to life at their new home. There’s hardly a club that has made the move to a new club without hitches, and teams like Southampton and Leicester spent a decade in lower divisions trying to recover..
So there’s still pressure on the players and fans to try to turn their capacious new stadium into a fortress like the Boleyn Ground as soon as possible. And for now the atmosphere could make all the difference in this cup tie, especially with a large Man City contingent expected.
Predicted West Ham Lineup:
Randolph; Byram, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble, Obiang; Antonio, Lanzini, Payet; Carroll
Having just come through three matches in a week, Guardiola might have hoped to be able to rest some of his weary stars. Unfortunately the FA Cup draw has landed him with a difficult trip to London, at a time when his nerves seem to be fraying.
City had been vibrant in the win against Arsenal, but his tired-looking team hardly mustered a chance to speak of in the defeat at Liverpool last Saturday. So Guardiola may decide he has to rest his big names, and sacrifice the cup to have a glimmer of hope of getting back in the league race.
Gabriel Jesus finalised his move to the Etihad on Sunday, and Guardiola has suggested that the youngster could be in the lineup sooner rather than later. It might be putting a bit too much weight on a 19-year-old’s shoulders to expect him to resuscitate Man City’s title hopes.
But for now we should get to see the young Brazilian at some point in this cup tie. He’ll give Agüero some competition for that striking role, especially as Guardiola doesn’t seem convinced by Iheanacho despite the young Nigerian’s scoring record.
If you’re poring over the City team for weak points, the full-back positions stand out more than any other. Sagna, Kolarov and Zabaleta were all among the best around at one point, but in positions that usually suit younger players all three are the wrong side of 30 and struggle to keep up.
Teams that use the wings and play direct against Guardiola’s team are having a lot of joy this season. Take Wijnaldum’s goal last weekend, which came from a simple cross that Zabaleta was unable to prevent.
Time for the Youngsters
Anybody who followed Guardiola’s career at Barcelona and Bayern will be aware that the manager likes to give game-time to promising young players. Iheanacho and big money signing Leroy Sané are both young and have played the odd game, but there have been few opportunities for players from the youth ranks.
If Guardiola does decide to call on some of his younger talent we could see Aleix García in midfield, while the Stockport lad Phil Foden was on the bench for the Champions League tie against Celtic and may make the squad for the cup.
Manchester City Predicted Teamsheet:
Caballero; Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; Touré, Fernando; Jesús Navas, David Silva, Nolito; Gabriel Jesus
When Will West Ham vs Manchester City Take Place?
The match kicks off at 19:55 GMT at London Stadium on 6 January. Did you known you can stream this match completely free and legally with Bet365?
West Ham vs Manchester City Match Prediction
It might not be very romantic but in a gruelling Premier League season and right after an exhausting Christmas fixture list the FA Cup is relegated to a sideshow. We’re betting that Guardiola’s going to make a lot of changes for this match and won’t be too upset if his team get knocked out on Friday.
For that reason we’re tipping a bit of an upset at the London Stadium, and can see West Ham nicking a win against the Citizens. We’re predicting a 2-1 win for the Hammers.