Where and when:
Upton Park, Saturday 30th December 2006. 3pm kick off.
Our recent slide was arrested with an important win away at Sheffield United on Boxing Day, and the fact that it was away from home was a particularly good sign. To temper this slightly, let's not forget our form before this game was as bad as it's been for some time - but we should take confidence from the fact we were able to eke out a win when it's fair to say we weren't at our best. Alan Curbishley has been in charge at West Ham for three games now and collected the full set of results - a win against United and the draw with Fulham before falling at home to Portsmouth on Boxing Day.
Current form at Upton Park does not look good for us as West Ham have won five and drawn one of the past six encounters.
With Joey Barton's appeal being turned down we face somewhat of a midfield crisis as he joins Reyna and Hamman on the sidelines. Micah Richards is expected to move into midfield in the 'Barton role'. It may be that Pearce drafts in an extra striker or pushes Vassell further forward and starts with Ishmael Miller on the left.
Like Barton, Paul Konchesky failed with his appeal so George McCartney should deputise for him. Captain Nigel Reo-Coker also misses out through suspension. So far under Curbishley, the Argentinian duo of Tevez and Mascherano have not been key components in his side so expect to see them on the sidelines once again.
Keys to the game:
With the 1-0 win at Sheffield United, we have stretched our winning streak when scoring first to six games. Added to this is West Ham allowing the opposition to score first fourteen times this season, so the first goal will be vital and in as tight a game as I expect it to be could even win the game. If Richards does indeed play in midfield he will need to have a big game as we do look a little lightweight in that department. With an out of form strike force Stephen Ireland's advanced role could again be crucial in linking midfield and attack with his creativity.
Plenty of players have moved between the clubs in the past - Mark Ward, Trevor Morley, Ian Bishop and David James to name a few. Of the current squads, if fit Trevor Sinclair would have faced his former club.
Why City will win:
Micah Richards will control the game in midfield - sparking even more transfer speculation, we will snatch an early goal and defend well to hold onto the points.
Why City will lose:
One step forwards, one step backwards syndrome. After a positive result on Boxing Day we will undo the good work by dropping points to a side we could put some distance between.
West Ham 1 City 1