Potential banana skin for City at Upton Park
WEST HAM v MAN CITY
(Tonight, 7.45pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Manchester City, still reeling from another Champions League disappointment in midweek, must respond quickly tonight.
Their chances of winning the Champions League are dwindling, but they are still contenders for the Premier League, provided they can keep pace with runaway leaders Chelsea.
We will know much more about City's character after their crucial clash at West Ham, who are in excellent form.
City have had one sticky spell this season already, a run of four games without a win that ended with an emphatic 7-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup.
In the league, they have stabilised nicely, winning their last three games with a degree of comfort.
But they still don't seem to be firing on all cylinders.
A number of key players have looked less than their best this season, none more so than Yaya Toure.
The Ivorian is one of the most effective players on the planet when he is on form but, when his game drops, he looks static and lethargic.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has defended his star player resolutely all season, but he will know that he needs him to be at his best.
There has been a feeling among the supporters that City are only performing adequately, especially in Europe.
In part, this is a natural by-product of their sudden rise in status, but there is some truth in it.
This is, of course, one of the most expensive sports teams ever created. Expectations are bound to be high.
Pellegrini has dealt with that pressure well.
He rotates his side regularly. Only Vincent Kompany and David Silva have played every league game thus far.
Perhaps that's one reason they haven't always looked as comfortable or coherent on the ball.
AGUERO THE ACE
They do, however, boast one Sergio Aguero, a player Pellegrini described as being "one of the best three or four in the world" last weekend.
The Argentinian has struggled with injuries throughout the year, but six goals in his last three games do seem to suggest that he has put his troubles behind him now.
He will lead the vanguard as City seek to put their European woes behind them and keep pace with Chelsea.
But, in order to do that, they'll have to beat a West Ham side in quite phenomenal form.
This summer, the club's hierarchy ordered manager Sam Allardyce to improve the aesthetic appeal of his hitherto crushingly dull Hammers.
It seemed like a challenge he could not meet, given that the majority of the football he has served up during his long career has been so prosaic.
But, against all expectations, Allardyce seems to have cracked it. With the exception of their opening match against Spurs, West Ham have scored in every game.
For that, they have Diafra Sakho to thank. The Senegalese striker has scored in four consecutive games now and would love to add a fifth against City.
Voted French Ligue Two Player of the Year last May for his goalscoring exploits with Metz, the 24-year-old has quickly settled into the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
Allardyce has even managed to find new life in Stewart Downing, a player many people had long since given up on.
The former Liverpool winger has been used in a more central role this season and it seems to be working.
Downing has been an ever-present in the side and has spoken publicly about how happy he is at Upton Park.
Given the quality of the passes he has been supplying to his teammates, you can bet that they're very happy too.
West Ham have won three of their last four games, losing only to Manchester United at Old Trafford and putting three past Downing's former side Liverpool.
There is a feel-good factor at Upton Park, something that even Allardyce's most loyal supporters couldn't have seen happening at the end of last season.
City will have to be very careful. This is a potential banana skin.
BY THE NUMBERS
Diafra Sakho scored in his fourth straight game when they beat Burnley 3-1 last Saturday.
West Ham have won four league games this season. Last season, they reached this tally only in January.
Sergio Aguero, who has scored 61 goals in 95 EPL appearances, averages a goal every 108 minutes, the best record in EPL history among players with 20 goals or more.
- West Ham v Man City
- Liverpool v Hull City
- Southampton v Stoke
- Sunderland v Arsenal
- West Brom v Crystal Palace
- Swansea v Leicester
- Burnley v Everton
- Tottenham v Newcastle
- Man United v Chelsea