Manchester City will travel to Upton Park Saturday to face a surprising 9th place West Ham United squad. With Manchester City tied on points with cross-town rival Manchester United, the Sky Blues will look to stay near the top of the table as they take on a scrappy West Ham side who have played exceptionally well at home this season. With City the clear favorite, The Hammers will have to play a near perfect game to get a result. Here are the key players to watch in Saturday’s matchup.
West Ham United
If West Ham wants to keep the match close, they will need to play solid team defense for 90 minutes, and take advantage of any opportunities they get in front of goal. The best hope for The Hammers on offense is the recently signed Andy Carroll and his strike partner Carlton Cole. With their size and athleticism, these two have the ability to change the match at any moment, and can match up with the size of the City defense.
Captain and leading scorer for the club this season, Kevin Nolan could also have a big impact with his ability to create and strike from long distance. The skipper has four Premier League goals in nine matches, but will most likely have limited opportunities against the defending league champions.
Goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen should have a busy day in net, but watch for the talented Finn to make a difference in the match with his superb shot-stopping ability.
While the squad’s depth allows manager Roberto Mancini to rotate the lineup from match to match, there are a few core players that the boss relies on to produce on a weekly basis.
The obvious players to watch are down the middle for The Sky Blues: goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has arguably been the best keeper in the world this year; central defender and team captain Vincent Kompany, who is the unquestioned leader of the team; and central midfielder and team motor Yaya Toure. All three are crucial to City’s success on a weekly basis.
In the midfield, look for David Silva to have a big game as well. City is expected to dominate possession so the Spanish maestro will have free roam of the pitch. Look for him to grab an assist or two, and maybe even get a goal.
Up front, it is anyone’s guess who will get the start. Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero have been in recent form, but against such an inferior opponent, look for Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko to get significant playing time. Any combination
of these four strikers is a nightmare for opposing defenders, especially considering the contrasting styles of play that each possess.
While West Ham will undoubtedly have trouble stopping the firepower that Manchester City has, their form at home has been stellar this season and they have some game changers. City clearly has the superior players and should dictate possession throughout. Look for the midfield of both sides to play a big role in Saturday’s game and ultimately decide the result.