West Ham look to salvage one of the good things they have going when they travel to Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semifinal tie.
These clubs met earlier in the Premier League season, when City earned a 3-1 win at the Boleyn Ground. Since that match, Manchester City and West Ham's fortunes have headed in opposite directions.
City are second in the table and one point behind Arsenal, while the Hammers are in the relegation zone and three points behind Cardiff in 16th place.
As you'd expect, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is coming under fire for the club's tumble down to 19th in the table. However, he remains adamant that a majority of supporters back him, per the Daily Mirror's Darren Lewis:
“It's only a minority, not a majority. The people I see and bump into in this area [east London], or before games away from home, ask for autographs and pictures. They’re always very positive.
“The negative side of it, people getting disgruntled, you understand the frustration because people want to see results. We understand they pay the money and are able to do that. But it is still a minority. The only way to make them feel better is by winning games of football.”
While he can remain confident all he wants, another poor string of results would likely lead to his dismissal.
Manuel Pellegrini will likely make some changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Blackburn in last weekend's FA Cup fixture. City have a tricky away fixture against Newcastle on Sunday, so he won't want too many key players getting exhausted heading into the weekend.
The manager acknowledged that he'll rotate in new players but remained coy on which changes he'd make, per The Telegraph:
He did confirm that winger Jesus Navas would not be risked due to a minor knee issue and that Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic and Jack Rodwell remain sidelined. Defender Dedryck Boyata is suspended after his sending off at Ewood Park.
Pellegrini said: "I don't know exactly how many changes but we will make some.
"Tomorrow we will see the 11 that start.
"I think he (Pantilimon) has responded well. I analysed the performance with the players and tomorrow we will see which goalkeeper will start."
Although this match looks one-sided on paper, cup competitions can be crazy sometimes. Few would have predicted Blackburn to hold out for a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup or for Sunderland to beat Manchester United 2-1 in Tuesday's Capital One Cup semifinal first leg.
Maybe the tournament has another surprise in store for supporters.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 2:45 p.m. ET; 7:45 p.m. GMT
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
TV: beIN Sport (US); Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play (US); NOW TV (UK)
Odds (via Paddy Power)
Manchester City Win: 2/11
West Ham Win: 14/1
Where Will West Ham's Goals Come From?
One of the biggest problems for West Ham this season has been scoring goals. In 20 league matches, the Hammers have 19 goals.
Much of that is due to the absence of Andy Carroll, who hasn't played a second of football this season. The club spent a record £15 million to buy him from Liverpool, so West Ham had big plans for him this year.
Once he's back, the attack should see a marked improvement.
Until then, the club will continue struggling to score, especially against top sides. Modibo Maiga can get it done against teams that are lower down in the table, but he's not going to scare a defense as good as City's, especially when it's playing at the Etihad.
Will Manchester City Take Their Foot Off the Gas?
Manchester City have had issues dealing with lesser squads—think back to the 3-2 loss to Cardiff City, 1-0 loss to Sunderland and 0-0 draw against Stoke City.
It goes back to Roberto Mancini's time as manager, so Pellegrini can't shoulder all of the blame. The players show up against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea but fall asleep sometimes against clubs near the bottom of the table.
It also speaks to Manchester City's problems on the road this season, which is a newer development. All three of the aforementioned results came away from the Etihad.
Manchester City get the edge by virtue of their talent advantage and the fact they're playing at home. And this is also an opportunity for players on the outside looking in on the first team to earn more playing time and to shake aside any possible complacency.
Don't expect to see City fly through this one, but they should get the advantage heading into the second leg. Their only home loss of the season came to reigning European champions Bayern Munich. Otherwise, they've taken full points from the other 13 competitive fixtures.
The Etihad has turned into a fortress.
Additionally, West Ham have lost six of their last seven competitive matches away from home, so they come into the match on a terrible run of fixtures.
Although Pellegrini will rest some of his key stars, Manchester City have more than enough to get a one- or two-goal advantage after the first leg. City's midfield will control the match, and Edin Dzeko should play well if he replaces Alvaro Negredo.
Prediction: Manchester City 3, West Ham 0