Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Manchester City - West Ham Preview: Hosts need a point to seal Premier League title

Edin Dzeko Manchester City Aston Villa Premier League 05072014
Manchester City welcome West Ham to the Etihad Stadium needing a point to secure their second Premier League crown in three years.

A two-point cushion and an advantage of 13 on goal difference means that only a defeat would realistically result in Liverpool claiming the title with a victory over Newcastle at Anfield.

Manuel Pellegrini's men endured a tense opening hour on Wednesday before hammering Aston Villa 4-0 - hitting 100 league goals for the season in the process with Yaya Toure's sensational closing solo effort.

It was City's 16 win in 18 league matches on home turf this year, making West Ham's trip north appear something of a formality, but memories of a dramatic final day in 2012 loom large and mean that nothing will be taken for granted.

City entered stoppage time 2-1 down to lowly QPR that day, with a first championship triumph for 44 years set to slip from their grasp before they secured a scarcely believable 3-2 win.

"Nothing is done and we can't expect an easy game on Sunday," right-back Pablo Zabaleta told the club's official website. "They are safe but they have very good players. They are very good on the counterattack and are very tough also on set-pieces.

"Hopefully on Sunday we can play well and get three points, even though we know a draw is enough, I think we must play to win the game."

Sergio Aguero netted the title-winning goal in 2012 but he is unlikely to be the hero this time around after sustaining a groin injury while scoring in his side's pivotal 3-2 triumph at Everton.

A place on the bench might be the best for which the Argentina striker can hope but Edin Dzeko - also a goalscorer in that famous QPR comeback - has taken up the mantle in attack with five goals in City's past three games. His 16 Premier League strikes this term are his best return for the club.

Such attacking riches are a world away for West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, although Andy Carroll putting his injury problems behind him over the final two months of the season has lent a focal point to the east Londoners' forward play.

It has perhaps been too much of a focal point for some sections of the Upton Park faithful, with whom Allardyces direct style of play has become increasingly unpopular, though some of the damage was repaired last time out as a run of four consecutive defeats ended with a stirring 2-0 win over London rivals Tottenham.

Midfielder Mark Noble, who scooped West Ham's player-of-the-year award in midweek, has defended Allardyce's tactics and believes that the Hammers should take credit for escaping the relegation mire.

"It's been a tough season - we've not quite got what we deserved with the injuries we've had but now we're 12th in the league," he told reporters. "We've done well to get out of the position we were in at Christmas and that's credit to the lads.

"The gaffer has never asked me to boot it. I try to get on the ball and make us play as much as possible and that's what has happened."

In contrast to his woes earlier in the season, Allardyce has a virtually full-strength squad from which to choose as he looks to spoil the party - an achievement that would guarantee him a lofty place in the affections of Liverpool's supporters, if not his own.

Manchester City - West Ham Preview: Hosts need a point to seal Premier League title Rating: 4.5 Posted by: Unknown


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