Premier League | Etihad Stadium | Sun 11 May | 3pm
Party time for Pellegrini, unless… nah, party time for Pellegrini!
Manchester City fans may have been poised to press the panic button after 63 minutes of anguish and frustration on Wednesday night against Aston Villa, but fortunately for them the players weren’t.
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 4-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Everton 2-3 Man City (Prem)
- Palace 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 3-1 WBA (Prem)
- Man City 2-2 S'land (Prem)
WEST HAM FORM
- West Ham 2-0 Spurs (Prem)
- WBA 1-0 West Ham (Prem)
- West Ham 0-1 Palace (Prem)
- Arsenal 3-1 West Ham (Prem)
- West Ham 1-2 Liverpool (Prem)
With nine of the team facing Villa also part of the squad that played QPR in the season finale two years ago, the Blues knew not to panic. It was merely a matter of time before they found a way through; David Silva twice conjured passes for Pablo Zabaleta to tee up man-of-the-moment Edin Dzeko.
Considered third choice at the start of the season and tipped to move elsewhere, the Bosnian has stepped up to the plate in the absence of injured talisman Sergio Aguero and more than proved his worth with crucial goals against Crystal Palace, Everton and Villa.
A draw at home to the Hammers will be enough to bag a second Premier League crown in three years, and having netted their 100th league goal of the campaign in midweek, Pellegrini is satisfied his side have hit the front playing with panache.
“I think that we have a style of play, I think that we are an attractive team, I think that we score many goals, that we are always thinking to score more goals and that for me has the same importance as the title,” said the Chilean.
Dzeko has called on his team-mates to focus on the home win which will ensure goal difference doesn’t come into the equation (on the off-chance that Liverpool happen to score 13 goals against Newcastle and, here's the tricky part, keep a clean sheet…)
“We did our job [against Villa] but we have to take the last game very seriously because it will be very tough and we will give everything, the experience of two years ago means we will approach it differently.”
Fortunately for Dzeko and City, Sunday’s opponents are West Ham, who have already received a 6-0 gubbing at the Etihad Stadium this season in the League Cup semis. Revenge may well be on the agenda then for Big Sam, who enjoyed a boo-free afternoon at Upton Park last Saturday as Spurs were slain for the third time this season.
Allardyce hailed his team’s first-half display in which they capitalised on Younes Kaboul’s sending off; Andy Carroll caused problems aplenty as he enhanced his chances of a late call-up from Roy Hodgson.
Derailing the Blues’ title hopes and handing the title to his former employers Liverpool would do Carroll’s case no harm. And the Geordie has enjoyed facing City in the past, scoring five times against them.
But history isn’t on the east Londoners’ side. The Hammers have lost 20 of their previous 25 away league games against Man City, the last win coming back in 2003 courtesy of a late Freddy Kanoute goal.
City will have Aguero back from the groin injury he aggravated at Everton, but Jesus Navas and Matija Nastasic look likely to miss out once again. West Ham are only expected to be without loanee Marco Borriello.
Players to watch: Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta
Two pillars of City’s sure-to-be successful season, the ever-running Argentine full-back and Ivorian powerhouse were pivotal in overcoming a stubborn Villa side.
Afforded the ball for long periods, Toure completed more than 100 passes before turning on the style late with the assist for Stevan Jovetic’s strike and thundering his way up the pitch to score City’s fourth.
A man-of-the-match display from Zabaleta saw the popular 29-year-old misplace just 5 of 97 passes over the 90 minutes, set up 5 chances including the crosses for City’s first two goals and make a game-high 10 ball recoveries in a typically tireless night’s work.
“It was very difficult. If you don’t score early, sometimes it can be hard but the key was we worked hard, we found space and we stayed patient,” said the former Espanyol man. “It was a very solid performance, nothing is won yet but it was very important to win. It was a massive step forward, but there is still one game to play. West Ham have nothing to play for but they have some very good players and can score goals.”
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- W Ham 0-3 City (LC, Jan 14)
- City 6-0 W Ham (LC, Jan 14)
- W Ham 1-3 City (Prem, Oct 13)
- City 2-1 W Ham (Prem, Apr 13)
- W Ham 0-0 City (Prem, Nov 12)
Pellegrini has come out on top in all three meetings against Allardyce in 2013/14, seeing his charges score 12 goals and concede just the one: Ricardo Vaz Te’s acrobatic consolation at Upton Park in October. The Chilean was happy to back Big Sam ahead of their League Cup semi-final three months later; the Hammers boss under fire for fielding a weakened team in a 5-0 FA Cup tonking at Nottingham Forest and his team second-bottom of the table at the time.
“I think that this job as a manager in any club in every part of the world, you are always under a lot of pressure,” said Pellegrini.
“When the results are not the results the club wants, maybe sometimes it can be more nervous than others but I think he is doing very good work in West Ham so I don’t think he will have any problems.”
Facts and figures
- 5 of City’s last 6 home games against bottom-half teams have had at least 4 goals.
- 13 of City’s 18 home games against bottom-half sides since the start of last season have had more goals in the second half than the first.
- West Ham have trailed 1-0 at half-time in half their last 10 trips to top-six teams.
- Both teams have scored in 6 of the last 7 meetings between these teams.
No last-gasp heroics this time. With the title butterflies already overcome against Villa on Wednesday, City know what they have to do and West Ham are powerless to prevent it from happening. 3-0. Party on.