THE FA Cup Third Round gets underway on Friday night as West Ham take on Manchester City. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) takes a look at the fixture for us.
West Ham v Manchester City | Friday 19:55 | BBC One
Ah, the FA Cup is back. The world's oldest Cup competition. Expect lots of patronising statements in the media this weekend about magic and heritage etc.
Hey, it's pretty fashionable to knock the FA Cup so I'll wind my neck in a wee bit. All I'll say is, the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Rounds are massively dull and the competition is at it's peak before Christmas with the minnows fighting it out.
The 3rd Round gets underway on Friday as West Ham and Manchester City meet at the London Stadium and no doubt we'll hear that both these managers (a Croat and a German) dreamed of winning this competition as a child.
Whether that's true or not, we may get an inkling by the line-ups on Friday night. Pep Guardiola was not shy to field strong sides in the German Cup but the climate was different at Bayern with his side many lengths clear of the rest.
Slaven Bilic took West Ham all the way to the Quarter-Finals last season and one of my few ante-post bets in 2016 was to back the Hammers to lift the trophy.
There was a sense that Bilic was buying into the competition, but like Guardiola, the waters were less choppy 12 months ago than they are now. The Croat has been near the top of the Sack Race betting after an underwhelming league season.
A glance back at West Ham's 3rd Round match last year (a scrappy 1-0 win over Wolves) saw a fairly strong line up from Bilic (minus Payet) and that bodes well for this match.
However of course, the Hammers are just seven points off the relegation zone at the moment (compared to 15 and in the Top 6 last year) and that could influence selection.
I reckon deep down Guardiola couldn't give a shit about this. We saw how little he cared about the League Cup when he lost to Manchester United with a shrug of the shoulders in the autumn. But…
Well, but, the pressure is on. His side are struggling to find a rhythm and are in a right royal battle just to make the Top 4 (unthinkable back in late-September). Another loss here would be damaging.
Team line ups are absolutely crucial to placing a bet on this game, my deadline comes well before that though. I think they'll be an onus on West Ham to produce a performance under the lights in their opening FA Cup tie at the London Stadium and I'm going to reach for the sky and back Over 1.5 West Ham goals.
As we know, Man City find it very difficult to keep a clean sheet (conceded in 13 of their last 15 away games) and with the bad feeling around the club at the moment it might lend the Hammers a chance to really square up to them here. Bilic's side have scored more than one against Spurs and Liverpool recently and could be up for this.
West Ham v Manchester City – Over 1.5 West Ham Goals (9/4 Bet365)
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