West Ham United and Manchester City will each be aiming to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup at the other side’s expense when they go head-to-head at the London Stadium (7.55pm Friday on BBC1).
West Ham’s last encounter was against another side from Manchester: goals from Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw Jose Mourinho’s United run out 2-0 winners against the Hammers on Monday evening. The Londoners will be hoping that was not a preview of what is to come here.
Slaven Bilic’s (pictured) side were a little hard done by as a couple of key refereeing decisions went against them, but the fact that they still managed to turn in a spirited showing suggests they remain on the up following victories over Burnley, Hull City and Swansea City in December. The Premier League remains the principal focus for Bilic and his players. Although they are now seven points clear of the drop zone, there is still work to be done before West Ham can be sure of their place in the Premier League. An FA Cup run would help to lift the mood in east London after a difficult few months.
Manchester City picked up all three points when they last took to the field, although they did not have everything their own way in what was a rather nervy triumph over Burnley at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s charges remain inconsistent and have struggled to keep pace with Chelsea and Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title, with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss finding several things difficult in his new role in the northwest. In that sense, the FA Cup is probably viewed by the Catalan as a welcome distraction, although Guardiola would probably have been hoping for an easier tie in the third round of this year’s competition.
West Ham will be without Reece Oxford (ankle), Alvaro Arbeloa (leg), James Collins (hamstring), Gokhan Tore (knee), Aaron Masuaku (knee), Diafra Sakho (back) and Sofiane Feghouli (suspension), while Cheikhou Kouyate and Andre Ayew have joined up with their respective national teams ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Andy Carroll is likely to be restored up front after beginning Monday’s loss to Manchester United on the substitutes’ bench, with Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet set to provide the support just behind the lone centre-forward. Mark Noble will return to the centre of midfield in place of Kouyate, with Pedro Obiang the most likely candidate to join him in the engine room.
Manchester City will have to find alternatives to the suspended Fernandinho and injured quartet Vincent Kompany (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (knee), Leroy Sane (muscle) and Fabian Delph (groin). Sergio Aguero should replace Kelechi Iheanacho at centre-forward, while Gabriel Jesus is pushing for his first appearance for the club after recently arriving from Brazilian champions Palmeiras. With Fernandinho now banned for four matches, compatriot Fernando will probably be employed alongside Yaya Toure in a two-man midfield, with either Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva used ahead of the pair in the No. 10 role.
Despite their recent struggles, Man City will probably have too much attacking quality for West Ham at the London Stadium on Friday night. Guardiola has been feeling the pressure of late and is likely to select a strong starting XI in an attempt to rebuild confidence and belief, which should be enough for the visitors to get over the line. There are usually goals to be had at both ends of the pitch when City are involved, so we expect an away win. Raheem Sterling can get on the scoresheet.