Saturday, 23 August 2008

City vs West Ham preview

Mark Hughes' first home league game at Eastlands, and a big one.

The signing of Vincent Kompany, predicted by no-one, has given a much needed optimisim boost going into the match. That news, along with Garry Cook's press interviews yesterday, mean that pessimism that we're about to 'do a Leeds' has slightly dissipated over the last 48 hours. The non-football news still dominates, but it's not quite as consistently bad as it has been this summer.

But I think is going to be a good game. Judged on purely football factors, I still think we're only two or three signings away from mounting a very strong challenge this season. And after the Midtjylland shambles and the loss at Villa, we're due a strong performance.

This is exactly the sort of game we should be winning. West Ham aren't a bad team (there at at least eight or nine worse), but with them wracked by injuries, and at City, three points is a must. And there will be no better way to shed the 'crisis club' tag than to win a few matches.

I imagine we'll keep most of the team that lost at Villa Park. Hart will continue in goal, and I imagine the back four will stay the same. Dunne serves the last game of his suspension, so the only possible change is Ball in for Garrido at left back. But having made his decision to pick Javi, knowing his strengths and weaknesses, I don't see why he'd switch now.

The major variable is the availability or not of Vincent Kompany. If he plays, I imagine he'd replace Gelson Fernandes in the midfield. The stick he's received on Bluemoon has been largely unfair, but we can't expect Gelson to play every game and the addition of an extra body is much needed. Johnson should continue alongside Gelson/Kompany (I can't wait for David Pleat et al to start confusing them when they do play together), with Petrov on the left. Etuhu played ok against Villa, but if he was picked to physically dominate Nicky Shorey he will not be able to do the same to Lucas Neill. Elano should continue in the hole, and Sturridge is the only possible challenge to Evans up front.

West Ham have enough good players: Neill, Ashton, Green, Parker, Upson to cause us problems if they play well. On a good day, we ought to have too much for them. But I'm going to predict 1-1.

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