Manchester City v West Ham: Home side's depth edges Top 4 clash

Manchester City host West Ham United on Sunday afternoon knowing a win will keep the pressure on Chelsea. Ben Steele expects an England pair to be the difference...

Hammers can score despite Antonio slump

Much of West Ham's early season success has been built around the form of forward Michail Antonio. He scored four goals in the first three games and fired his side into the top four, but in recent weeks the goals have dried up. Despite impressive performances, most notably in the Hammers' 3-2 win over Liverpool the 31-year-old has only found the net once in his last six Premier League appearances.

City manager Pep Guardiola will be well aware of the threat Antonio's technical ability, combined with his physicality, poses to his defence. Expect Ruben Dias, rested for last week's win over Everton, to return to the starting lineup and keep very close tabs on the Jamaican international with Kyle Walker performing his customary role of sweeping up anything that gets past Dias.

Guardiola's side have been excellent defensively this season, conceding just six in the league, but their visitors on Sunday are far from a one man team. Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals have both been impressive this term but it is set-pieces where David Moyes' side have been a real threat. Last season's Fantasy Football staple Tomas Soucek is still a threat but he has been joined by the likes of Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna on the score sheet this season.

City are heavy favourites but West Ham already have already beaten three of last year's top seven so I don't expect this to be an easy task for the defending champions. Both teams to score at 1.91 seems good value, particularly with Antonio drawing so much defensive focus.

Sterling strong against the Irons

Manchester City have an exceptional record against West Ham under Pep, since the Spaniard took charge in Manchester his side have won nine and drawn one of the 10 league games between the two sides; and a large part of that success has been down to the successes of Raheem Sterling.

The England winger has been directly involved in 11 goals (six goals, five assists) against The Hammers, including a hat-trick at the London Stadium back in 2019. City lack a recognised striker but that could play to Sterling's benefit this weekend. The visitor's squad is full of tall, powerful centrebacks but they could struggle to cope with the myriad of mobile forwards available at City's disposal.

Raheem Sterling - Man City, UCL - 1280.jpg

Sterling has been in and out of the team in recent weeks but scored against PSG in mid-week and combined brilliantly with Joao Cancelo for a goal last week and I expect him to start again this weekend. In fact, another link up between the England man and his Portuguese teammate isn't out of the question.

Cancelo has set up three goals in his last two games and with Kevin De Bruyne missing the game after a positive COVID test on international duty, he was allowed to drift into midfield more often last week where he produced a man of the match performance. I expect Guardiola to set up in a similar way on Sunday and the full-backs range of passing is a real asset.

A Bet Builder of Sterling to score anytime and Cancelo to have an assist is 6.55.

Support gives Foden the edge in England midfield tussle

While Cancelo can make up some of the creative work that City will miss without De Bruyne in the side on Sunday the key battle could be between a pair of England teammates in midfield. Declan Rice and Phil Foden will go head to head for the first time this season on the pitch having faced off against each other in national team training multiple times.

Foden, the creator, will be looking to stamp his authority on the City side and show that he can replace one of the games best midfielders while Rice will know that if he can shut down the prodigiously talented 21-year-old then he'll have a good chance of leading his side to another famous victory. Unfortunately for Rice, and his central partner Soucek, he will be tasked with coping with one of the best midfields in world football on Sunday afternoon.

Bernardo Silva is looking to score in three consecutive games for the first time in his City career while Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri have formed a solid partnership too. Foden will be given the freedom to roam and find space throughout the game and that is where he poses the biggest threat to West Ham.

The City man is 11/4 to have an assist in the game and with his England counterpart otherwise engaged, that could well swing the game for his side.

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