MANCHESTER CITY host West Ham on Sunday afternoon in the Premier League. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Manchester City v West Ham | Sunday 9th February 2020, 16:30 | BT Sport
Manchester City will be pleased to be welcoming struggling West Ham to the Etihad Stadium after a sixth defeat of the season last time out in North London.
To be 22 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool is somewhat of a miserable title defence from Guardiola’s men who have looked defensively unstable, wasteful at the top end of the pitch and at times lacking in confidence. Although we are only in February and City remain in three other competitions, talk is already turning to what the Spanish manager can do in the summer to avoid a repeat of this campaign.
A recent boost is the return of Aymeric Laporte from a long-term injury, although the France international has missed the last three matches after helping his side to a clean sheet in his return at Sheffield United. He should return here and bolster that backline once more, fuelled by his manager’s recent comments when describing him as the “best left sided centre-back in the world”.
When considering that the Blues should dominate from the off here and limit West Ham to minimal possession, plus Laporte’s return, backing the home side to win to nil was a play I considered but the 9/10 best price doesn’t bring about much value on its own.
Instead, I’m going to take advantage of Bet365’s BetBuilder feature and combine a few selections together to boost the odds. If you throw in the City to win to nil that I mentioned alongside City to win by 2 or more goals, West Ham to be awarded over 7.5 free-kicks and have over 8.5 goal kicks, you’ll rack up a nice 15/8 selection.
Breaking dow the bet…
Breaking this down one-by-one, the bet certainly appeals to nearly treble your money. City have a very strong record against the Hammers, putting five past them without reply on the opening weekend of the season and also scoring four in two of the three previous meetings.
If West Ham continue to defend like they are currently – backing off opponents at will and affording them far too much space to cause untold damage – then Sunday’s match could get ugly.
The free-kick selection is always a nice market to look out for and I’ve included it here because, quite simply, City are tactical fouling machines, particularly up against teams that look to play on the counter attack with pace. The likes of Michail Antonio will provide that outlet for the Claret and Blues and City’s midfield men are not afraid to take out players like him early and high up the pitch to avoid a threatening situation.
Two recent head-to-heads against West Ham illustrate this perfectly – that 5-0 win back in August and a 4-1 success in 2017-18. The Citizens, despite dominating with the ball in both matches, racked up 13 and 11 fouls respectively which was way more than their opponents which are quite extraordinary amounts in the context of the eventual scorelines. Zinchenko’s yellow card at Tottenham last weekend was another perfect example of it in effect so I had no hesitancy including it in my first bet.
The final part of the quartet, West Ham to take over 8.5 goal kicks, is based on how dominant I expect City to be. They create chance after chance in this type of game but are not the best at converting those chances into shots on target (35% conversion rate), so the away goalkeepers are often having to pick the ball out the stand for a re-start from the six yard line.
West Ham have had 174 goal-kicks this season with four different ‘keepers which works out at seven per match but Sunday’s figure will likely be at least borderline double figures.
De Bruyne to be play prominent role
My second and final selection comes in the player shots markets and it’s Kevin De Bruyne to register 4 or more shots at 11/8 with Coral. The same line is as short as 4/6 elsewhere so this represents some value.
The Belgian playmaker thrives in most games but against bottom half sides, he orchestrates proceedings and is not afraid to get a strike away from range when opposing defences sit deep. In the five matches De Bruyne has played in at home against sides on the bottom ten, his shot counts read 6, 4, 2, 4 and 4 and the game he recorded 2 was not a full 90 minutes so it’s a 100% record from full 90 minute appearances.
If David Moyes’ men give City’s midfield time on the ball and the license to shoot at will, then another repeat of that 5-0 pounding could be on the cards and will increase the pressure on the West Ham manager and ownership to step aside before it’s too late to rescue the club’s Premier League status.