For the most optimistic Manchester City fans out there, the chance to win four trophies this season still hangs by a thread, albeit a fraying one.
They are second on the Premier League table, are technically alive in the Champions League—though perhaps not for long, as a matchup with Barcelona looms—are now facing an FA Cup replay against Blackburn and have a very winnable matchup against West Ham in the Capital One Cup semi-finals.
City will tip themselves to at least be favourites in the latter competition. Manuel Pellegrini would surely love nothing more than to earn at least one trophy in his maiden voyage.
So can the overmatched Hammers give the Citizens a run for their money at the impenetrable Etihad Stadium? Or will City continue to demolish opponents in their home digs?
When: Wednesday, January 8 at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. GMT)
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Watch: beIN Sport; beIN Sport Play; Sky Sports 1 (U.K.); Sky Now (U.K.)
Along with Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic, Jack Rodwell, Micah Richards (all injured) and Dedryck Boyata (suspended), crafty winger Jesus Navas will be forced to miss this match with an injury, according to Richard Jolly of ESPN.
However, the team will have defender Martin Demichelis back from injury. And, according to Jolly, Jovetic should finally be back in action at the end of the month, along with Aguero, as City fans surely await the return of both.
Both will be welcomed with open arms—City are down to two strikers, Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo. Not a bad pair by any stretch, but as Pellegrini was utilizing two-striker formations to start the season, getting healthy at the position in time for the stretch run is vital.
Meanwhile, West Ham come into this game after being absolutely smoked by Nottingham Forest over the weekend, 5-0. With the Hammers also in the relegation zone, the future of Sam Allardyce is starting to skate on rather thin ice.
But Pellegrini expects his counterpart to have West Ham ready to go in this one (via The Telegraph):
They had an awful result but I don't think they played with their best XI. They played with young players. I am absolutely sure tomorrow will be a very different game to what they played on Sunday.
I think that in this job as a manager—in any club, in every part of the world—you are always under a lot of pressure. When the results are not the results the club wants, maybe sometimes it can be more nervous, but I think he is doing very good work in West Ham so I don't think he will have any problems.
Even if West Ham are in finer form—and even if City are a bit beat up—how will the Hammers deal with Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in the midfield? Or David Silva and Samir Nasri heading up the attack? Or City's talented pair at forward?
These are questions that any team struggles to answer, let alone a West Ham side currently 19th on the Premier League table.
Let's not forget that in 14 matches in all competitions at the Etihad Stadium this season, City have 13 wins and one loss. West Ham would be overmatched at home—on the road, they'll do well to avoid losing by multiple goals.
You would have to be pretty brave to even bet on a West Ham draw in this one. In Premier League play, the Hammers have won just once and drawn three times in 10 road matches, scoring only seven goals. That doesn't inspire much confidence heading to City's fortress.
This is a game City should, and will, win by multiple goals. Expect a clinical performance from the Citizens, as they win, 3-0, and head into the second leg of this Capital One Cup tie in a great position.