How Manchester City Will Line Up Against West Ham United
After surviving in one domestic cup competition by the skin of their teeth against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, Manchester City will be determined to make things a little easier in the other on Wednesday night.
Anyone who saw West Ham's shadow side capitulate against the Championship's Nottingham Forest at the weekend will tell you that the word "easy" could well be featuring on the lips of City's fans come the end of this Capital One Cup semi-final first-leg, but Manuel Pellegrini will be looking to see his team's performance levels improve from their Ewood Park display.
To that end, and with an extra day's rest to prepare before their next Premier League clash at Newcastle on Sunday, the Chilean is likely to make a host of changes to his side for a clash against a West Ham outfit who are likely to look a little different from their weekend lineup too.
How Sam Allardyce must wish he had the options available to his opposing manager, not that Pellegrini will care about the plight of the Hammers boss as he plots a route to Wembley and potentially a first trophy in English football at the first attempt.
Here is the lineup that he could name against the Hammers.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
Costel Pantilimon was given the gloves again at Ewood Park, but his error that allowed Scott Dann to score Blackburn's equaliser wouldn't have had much effect on Pellegrini's thinking coming into this clash. Joe Hart was always going to start.
Having re-established himself as City's No. 1, the England goalkeeper will now be eyeing a Wembley final and the chance to complete the set in terms of all three English domestic trophies won after picking up the FA Cup in 2011 and then a league title a year later.
Hart played in the City team that lost over two legs to Liverpool at this stage of the competition two years ago, and he won't be in any mood for history to repeat itself.
Defence: Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasic, Aleksandar Kolarov
Dedryck Boyata's frequently stuttering Manchester City career was hardly given a boost by the somewhat brainless red card he picked up to put his team in trouble in the closing stages at Blackburn, and the Belgian cost himself another chance to start here due to his suspension.
Instead, Pablo Zabaleta will come in at right-back as the City defence reverts to a more familiar-looking setup that might well see Matija Nastasic as the only retained member from the weekend.
That would mean recalls for both skipper Vincent Kompany and Aleksandar Kolarov, with the Serb potentially a key man going forward following a run of three goals in his last six games, including a goal in the last round of this competition at Leicester City.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas
The metronomic Brazilian Fernandinho seems incapable of taking a rest during his first season in English football, and he started at Blackburn at the weekend before being replaced by Yaya Toure just after the hour mark.
Both should line up together from the beginning here as City's midfield takes on its more familiar, Premier League-like state, with the duo charged with setting the platform for stars to shine further ahead.
After being rested at Blackburn, Samir Nasri is likely to drift in from the left side and take up central positions as much as possible, while Jesus Navas could return to the starting lineup on the right-hand side and seek to stretch the game as he's supported by Zabaleta.
Attack: Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko
For the third game in succession, Pellegrini could opt to play Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko up front together in a partnership that hasn't especially sparkled but certainly contains goals.
Having said that, the pair managed just one strike between them in their recent assignments on the road at Swansea and Blackburn, but they are sure to get chances here, and if they do then the Hammers are likely to suffer.
With Sergio Aguero on the road to recovery and likely to take Dzeko's place once he's fully fit and firing, the Bosnian must know that he's on borrowed time and must savour occasions such as this.
Ready in Reserve
As always with City, there are those who are unfortunate to miss out of their star-studded lineup.
Should the team be as described here, then Javi Garcia, Gael Clichy, Joleon Lescott and James Milner would drop to the bench after starting at Blackburn, with Stevan Jovetic also believed to be finally closing in on a return to the squad after lengthy injury and illness problems. David Silva could also be rested.
Martin Demichelis, Micah Richards and Sergio Aguero remain out, while Jack Rodwell is a doubt.
How They'll Line Up
So with Negredo and Dzeko again paired up front, the onus will be on Nasri to support them from the left and Navas to do the same while stationed a little wider on the right.
What is arguably City's first-choice defence should have more than enough to blunt out a Hammers attack that has hardly set pulses racing this season, and so the hosts are going to be in a mood to kill off this tie in the first leg and place one foot and four toes in a Wembley final already.
With a lineup like this, that's exactly what they could do.
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