Another round of FA Cup fixtures brings together West Ham United and Manchester City, with the two sides in fairly matched form. West Ham's awful start to the season saw them flirt with the relegation zone and a 5-1 defeat to Arsenal saw Slaven Billic placed under increasing pressure. His position's vulnerability was enhanced by the success the side enjoyed last season which saw the team break numerous club records.
Following the defeat to the Gunners at the start of December, the East London's side enjoyed their best run of the season, a four game undefeated streak which saw them win three. This ended with a New Year's Eve defeat to Leicester and Monday's opponents Manchester United. Although not completely safe, the improved form over the festive period has seen them move away from the drop zone and more confident.
Manchester City's season can be described in a single word, rocky. Their patchy form has seen them fall behind in the title race, and looking over their shoulders at the battle for the fourth Champions League spot. A humiliating 4-2 defeat to Leicester was followed by three wins including a 2-1 win against Arsenal, indicating a return to form. The season's patchy performances was highlighted in a New Year's Eve 1-0 loss to title rivals Liverpool.
In Pep Guardiola's first season in charge, he looks like he has problems adapting to the different styles of play, and as he enters his first fixture in The FA Cup, could the Spaniard find West Ham's passion for the coveted trophy something he also needs to wary of?
(Form Check: DWWWLL)
Two defeats in their last two games, has seen West Ham's festive revival in form come to a shuddering halt. The Hammers will need to start quickly against Man City, and leading after fifteen minutes (17/2 with Coral - Bet Here!) may not be too obvious, but their opponents defence has exposed early in recent games. City have conceded four goals within the opening quarter in their last six games. A return to the side by Andy Carroll sees the potential for the Hammers to exploit their main source of attack. Set-pieces account for 43% of their goal total, and Carroll (9/2 with SkyBet - Bet Here!) and Michail Antonio (15/2 with SkyBet - Bet Here!) to score with a header, looks a real prospect.
West Ham's defence is still precarious and will need to stay in the game as long as possible. Going into half time, should West Ham be level, it gives them an opportunity to go onto the win (10/1 with bet365 - Bet Here!). Mark Noble scoring from the spot has provided useful wins against Burnley and Hull, a rebounded effort against the former may not have counted stats wise, but the likelihood of West Ham scoring a penalty (8/1 with Paddy Power - Bet Here!) is something worth considering.
Both sides will love to win the fixture, but Manchester City's fixture list could allow West Ham an advantage. A further rotation by Guardiola could see the side stutter, and If City fail to find their scoring boots, West Ham could capitalize on their visitor's leaky defence and a 2-0 win could be achievable (33/1 with Betfed - Bet Here!). Dimitri Payet's stuttering form has caused the team to struggle in this year's campaign. A return to improved performances recently has the fans hopeful he can open the scoring (11/1 with bet365 - Bet Here!).
West Ham's Andy Carroll will be a dominating force from set-pieces, which has been The Hammer's most reliable source of goals this season.
(Form Check: LWWWLW)
An indifferent season has seen The Sky Blues fall behind current league leaders Chelsea by seven points with a game in hand. A defeat here to West Ham will see new boss Pep Guardiola come under increasing pressure. A loss in their last away game against opponents Liverpool, has not only increased the gap at the top of the table, but increased the importance of the game morale wise for the side.
A big performance is needed from some of his superstars in what could be a tricky encounter. Raheem Sterling's goal against Arsenal seemed to indicate a return to form, and for him to score two or more goals (14/1 with Paddy Power - Bet Here!) will go to some lengths to dismiss critics of his ability to perform. Should Man City win both halves of the game (7/2 with Unibet - Bet Here!), it will depend on whether they can keep West Ham shut out (13/8 with bet365 - Bet Here!).
A quick start by City could be the tonic that Guardiola needs, and for them to score in the opening ten minutes (11/2 with Coral - Bet Here!) will ensure that his side has the potential to dominate the game, although a closely contested game could mean a 2-1 victory (8/1 with BetVictor - Bet Here!) is on the cards.
Yaya Toure's return to the side seems to have strengthened the sides midfield spine, and he is happy to sprint forward and strike. Never afraid to take a pot-shot he is a likely candidate to score for his side at anytime (27/10 with Unibet - Bet Here!).
Can Yaya Toure be a determining factor for Manchester City, as they look to turn around their league woes with a win in the FA Cup against West Ham.
- West Ham have received three red cards this season.
- The Hammers have won on average 19.1 aerial duels per game at home this season.
- Man City, on average have 60% of the possession when away from home, whilst the Hammers retain 52%
- Manchester City's pass success rate averages 84% away from home, whilst West Ham's reaches 81% when at home.
- Manchester City's current goal ratio stands at 2.0 per game whilst The Hammers is at 1.1.
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
This looks a close game, neither side are in top form and both are keen to perform well in the cup. Guardiola's first taste of the competition may taste bitter if West Ham can keep things tight. If players such as Andy Carroll and Dimtri Payet can exploit the visitor's sloppy defence, then The Hammers can provide a further shock to the Spaniard in his debut season in English football.
MY RECOMMENDED BETS
- For Man City to be winning at half-time and the game to be level at 90 minutes (17/1 with BetVictor - Bet Here!).
Francois is one of Howtobet4free’s co-founders and has written many of Howtobet4free’s popular Betting Guides. Francois also helps run the @howtobet4free_ Twitter account