Alex Keble says Big Sam will shut out the struggling champions at the Etihad – but it won't make for pretty viewing...
As mentioned in last week's analysis, Manchester City's rigid and predictable playing style has left them looking creatively starved. Assuming that Yaya Toure's form doesn't dramatically improve, a significant proportion of the creative burden will lie upon the shoulders of David Silva who, cutting in from the left, may struggle against West Ham's compact central midfield trio.
Sam Allardyce is an excellent defensive organiser, compressing the gaps between lines of defence and ensuring that West Ham's third of the pitch is highly congested. Key to this success is the narrowness of Alex Song, Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate, all of whom are excellent tacklers and positionally disciplined.
In the reverse fixture, when West Ham won 2-1 in October, it was the tightness of midfield that prevented a then-in-form Toure from dominating, and Silva from doing what he loves best – cutting in from the left.
They may have seen a lot of the ball (West Ham did, after all, sit deep and look to counter), but notice how few forward passes either player made in a central position close to the penalty area.
The wall Allardyce puts up in front of the back four is certainly difficult to break down, and with confidence low at the Etihad Stadium it would be no surprise if Manuel Pellegrini's team are left frustrated once again.
West Ham are adept at drowning out the opposition, ensuring all 10 outfield players remain compressed neatly into a small zone of the pitch.