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Preview: Manchester City vs. West Ham United - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Manchester City vs. West Ham United - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday night's Premier League clash between champions Manchester City and West Ham United, including predictions, teams news and lineups.
By , Editor | 3mo

Fresh from winning the EFL Cup at Wembley on Sunday, Manchester City will turn their attention back to their Premier League title tilt when they welcome West Ham United to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.

The champions were knocked off top spot while collecting their first piece of silverware this season and take on one of their former title-winning managers here as Manuel Pellegrini returns to the Etihad.

Man City

Leg one of a potential quadruple has been completed, making the 'impossible' task that bit more achievable for Pep Guardiola's side.

Not that you would have thought it from the City manager's demeanour. In the post-match press conference he spoke in a far more deflated tone than his beaten Chelsea counterpart Maurizio Sarri and, while he insisted he was happy, his grumbles about injuries and the fixture schedule suggested that success in the EFL Cup came at a cost he was not entirely pleased with.

Of course, that could also be construed as a clear message to his players that he is not satisfied with just EFL Cup glory, and only three days after going the distance with extra time and penalties at Wembley, City must refocus back onto the Premier League for the first time since February 10.

The deficit to leaders Liverpool has been cut from seven points to one in recent weeks, but the champions are still reliant on Jurgen Klopp's side dropping points over the final 11 games of the season if they are to retain the title.

Three of the past five winners of the EFL Cup have gone on to lift the Premier League too - including City under both managers that will be in the dugouts on Wednesday - and while Guardiola insisted that Liverpool are still favourites, the momentum appears to be behind the defending champions.

Including Sunday's shootout win over Chelsea at Wembley, City have now won each of their last six games and 14 of their last 15 across all competitions, whereas Liverpool have drawn four of their last five and have only won three of their nine outings so far in 2019.

Guardiola's concerns over his growing injury list are not without merit, though, and while his squad depth is the envy of almost every other manager in world football, the one player he arguably could not afford to lose was Fernandinho, who is expected to miss at least four games.

Fernandinho's last spell of enforced absence saw City slump to back-to-back defeats at the hands of Crystal Palace and Leicester City, so the prospect of him missing matches in the title run-in and the Champions League will not be a welcome one for the champions.

Even so, City will be overwhelming favourites to win again on Wednesday night having emerged victorious from all seven of their home games so far this calendar year, scoring a whopping 35 goals and conceding just twice in the process.

Recent Premier League form: WWLWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW

West Ham

Pellegrini knows exactly the impact a League Cup triumph can have on a team in the title race, but that is something he is now tasked with stopping on Wednesday night.

The Hammers are currently in a battle to record just their second top-half finish in the past six seasons, with Friday night's 3-1 win over Fulham leaving them in ninth place.

Pellegrini will very much be looking up the table rather than down it right now, and qualification for Europe next season remains a distinct possibility with only four points separating them from seventh.

Such a finish would equal their highest position since 1998-99, and with their next four games after Wednesday coming against teams in the bottom half, that is a target they can really push for over the next month.

Victory over Fulham last time out ended a five-match winless streak for the Hammers across all competitions, and should they spring a major shock at the Etihad then it would be back-to-back league wins for the first time since December 15.

West Ham's record against City in recent times has been poor, but they have already taken points off Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal this season, so have proved that they can mix it with the big boys when on form.

Doing the same at the Etihad is a long shot, though, particularly considering West Ham's poor recent away record. Pellegrini's side have won none and lost four of their last five matches on the road, failing to even score in three of those.

It is an issue they will need to solve if they are to achieve their goal of seventh place, but that will take a few more upsets along the way with five of their remaining six away league games coming against teams above them in the table - including four of the top six.

West Ham have not beaten one of that top six away from home in the league since August 2015, and not too many people will be expecting them to end that run and add another twist to the title race on Wednesday.

Recent Premier League form: WLLDDW
Recent form (all competitions): LLLDDW

Team News

The EFL Cup final injuries to Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte mean that Guardiola's hopes for rotation so soon after a 120-minute match are a little more limited.

Ilkay Gundogan is expected to replace Fernandinho in the holding role, while fit-again captain Vincent Kompany could replace Laporte at the back if John Stones fails to recover from a groin injury.

Gabriel Jesus, Benjamin Mendy and Fabian Delph join Stones in being doubts for the match, which means that Guardiola could be forced to play the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva from the start again.

There are more options to rest players elsewhere, though, and both Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez will be hoping for recalls.

West Ham, meanwhile, handed a long-awaited return to Manuel Lanzini against Fulham, although he is unlikely to be risked from the start so soon after coming back from such a lengthy injury.

Fabian Balbuena is nearing a return from injury, but this match will come too soon for both him and Winston Reid, while the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko and Jack Wilshere are longer-term absentees.

Javier Hernandez scored his 50th Premier League goal in highly controversial fashion on Friday night, although he could make way for Marko Arnautovic in the starting lineup for this one.

Man City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Danilo, Otamendi, Kompany, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Gundogan, D Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sane

West Ham possible starting lineup:
Fabianski; Zabaleta, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Antonio, Noble, Rice, Snodgrass, Anderson; Arnautovic

Head To Head

This has been one of Man City's favourite fixtures in recent years, winning each of the last six editions and scoring at least four goals in four of the last five.

West Ham's last win over City did come at the Etihad, though, when they pulled off a 2-1 victory over the then table-topping hosts in September 2015.

The reverse fixture this season saw Sane get on the scoresheet twice in a 4-0 win for City at the London Stadium, maintaining Guardiola's 100% Premier League record against the Hammers.

We say: Man City 2-1 West Ham

Man City have been sweeping teams aside at the Etihad recently, but they are only three days removed from a final which went all the way to penalties, have a growing injury list and West Ham have had two extra days to prepare. The champions should still have enough to pick up all three points, but it may not be as straightforward as the reverse.

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