Manchester City will be looking to take a giant stride towards retaining their Premier League title when they face West Ham United at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
City, who beat the Hammers 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium in the reverse fixture earlier this season, know that a victory will move them six points clear of second-placed Liverpool with just one game left to play. Liverpool will have two games left because of their involvement in the FA Cup final this weekend.
Despite being dumped out of the Champions League in heartbreaking fashion by Real Madrid almost a fortnight ago, City have responded emphatically to that defeat in the Spanish capital, crushing both Newcastle United and Wolves, scoring 10 goals in the process. Wednesday night’s 5-1 win over Wolves at Molineux was another statement of intent that moved Pep Guardiola’s side one step closer to the title.
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Victory at Molineux means City will enter Sunday’s clash with David Moyes’ side with optimism and confidence flowing through their veins. However, they cannot afford to underestimate the Hammers, with them still in with a chance of securing Europa League football for next season.
In terms of Guardiola’s team selection, the Catalan could have some difficult decisions to make. However, he has a simple one to make in goal, with Brazilian Ederson poised to continue his run between the sticks.
In defence, however, Guardiola could face something of a nightmare. Aymeric Laporte was forced off against Wolves and it seems unlikely that he will be risked considering Guardiola has admitted that he was still in the treatment room on Friday.
City are already without Ruben Dias and John Stones for the remainder of the season. It is hoped that Nathan Ake will be fit, meaning he could be joined in the heart of the defense by Rodri. Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko should join them in the back-four in the two full-back positions.
In midfield, with Rodri set to move into the back-four and Fernandinho’s fitness in doubt, Guardiola will be forced into at least one change in the engine room. Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne, who scored four times in midweek, could be joined by Bernardo Silva, who started up front in their last outing.
That means that Guardiola will be forced to make at least one change to his front-three to accommodate Bernardo in midfield. However, the former Bayern Munich boss might be keen to add fresh energy to his forward-line, with Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish both starting on the bench in midweek.
Raheem Sterling, however, deserves to keep his place after getting a goal and an assist in midweek, meaning he could move out to the left to accommodate Mahrez’s return on the right. Phil Foden could operate as the false-nine.
Should that prove to be the case, the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Grealish will have to settle for places on the bench once again. Nevertheless, they would give Guardiola options to turn to mid-game.
Predicted City line-up vs. West Ham: Edison; Cancelo, Rodri, Ake, Zinchenko; Gundogan, Bernardo, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling.
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