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    Premier League Preview: West Ham United - Manchester City

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    Ali Swaidan
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    Premier League Preview: West Ham United - Manchester City

    Post by Ali Swaidan on Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:37 pm



    Zola’s Hammers Losing Steam

    In the midst of rumours indicating a Chelsea coup which could find current West Ham managerial tag-team Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke in the Stamford Bridge dugout, the Hammers are suffering something of a slump in losing their last two league games and having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Middlesbrough. Even with the recent poor results, Zola has managed to turn the club around since taking over from Alan Curbishley, and the former Chelsea star has reinstated a winning attitude and impressive style to the West Ham first team.

    Zola has had to deal with the long-term absence of Dean Ashton in his strike force, with the Englishman sidelined for the rest of the season. Fellow ex-Chelsea hitman, Carlton Cole has hit a vein of form that has earned him an England call-up. Italian recruit David Di Michele has also had some impressive performances as he begins to adapt to life in the physical Premier League.

    The Hammers faithful will have the opportunity to welcome back recent departure Craig Bellamy as he returns with new side Manchester City. The Upton Park singing sections will surely lay into the Welshman after his reportedly messy split from the club in January, leaving an in-form side for the challenge of the cash-rich City side who are sitting one point behind West Ham.

    Blues March On In Europe

    As the Citizens look to improve on their domestic form, including their dismal one win in all of their away league fixtures, they have managed to advance to the last-16 of the UEFA Cup. Mark Hughes has made no secret of his desire to win the competition, which has proved to be the only silverware City are in contention, but also to improve on his side’s miserable record on their travels.

    The Eastlands outfit took a step in the right direction as they held Liverpool to a draw at Anfield, dominating the Reds for large parts of the match. However, Hughes is still looking for his top stars to perform away from home.

    While many were skeptical of Craig Bellamy’s role in the side, the combative ex-Hammer has impressed immensely, netting twice in City’s win over FC Copenhagen in the last leg of the UEFA Cup. The quick Welshman has linked up well with fellow attacking duo Robinho and Shaun Wright-Phillips, but will be without the latter as he heads back into his old stomping ground this weekend.

    FORM GUIDE

    West Ham

    Arsenal 0-0 West Ham (EPL)
    West Ham 0-1 Man Utd (EPL)
    West Ham 1-1 Middlesbrough (FA)
    Bolton 2-1 West Ham (EPL)
    Middlesbrough 2-0 West Ham (FA)

    Manchester City

    Man City 1-0 Middlesbrough (EPL)
    Portsmouth 2-0 Man City (EPL)
    F.C. København 2-2 Man City (UEFA)
    Liverpool 1-1 Man City (EPL)
    Man City 2-1 F.C. København (UEFA)

    TEAM NEWS

    West Ham

    Midfielder Mark Noble will miss out on this tie due to a one-match suspension.

    Jack Collison is expected to be named into the starting XI by Zola, however defender James Collins will be sidelined with a hamstring strain.

    Long-term injuries to Luis Boa Morte, Kieron Dyer, Danny Gabbidon, and Dean Ashton will see the quartet miss out as they continue to recover.

    Squad: Green, Neill, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami, Parker, Collison, Kovac, Cole, Di Michele, Lastuvka, Lopez, Savio, Spector, Tristan, Sears.

    Manchester City

    Nigel De Jong should be unleashed on the Hammers after remaining sidelined against Copenhagen, due to the Dutchman’s exclusion from Hughes’ updated UEFA Cup squad.

    Shaun Wright-Phillips will complete the third of this three-match ban, while midfielder Gelson Fernandes is out with a hamstring problem.

    Long term absentee Valeri Bojinov remains omitted but could soon be a part of Mark Hughes’ plans as the Bulgarian continues to feature in reserve matches for the Sky Blues.

    Squad: Given, Hart, Schmeichel, Richards, Onuoha, Dunne, Kompany, Bridge, Garrido, Zabaleta, Elano, Caicedo, Ireland, de Jong, Fernandes, Robinho, Bellamy, Vassell, Weiss, Logan.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    West Ham

    Charlton Cole
    has found his form this season after being an afterthought for much of his career. The absence of Ashton has helped his development and Cole was unhappy at the idea of Bellamy’s departure, but will now have to take on his former strike partner.

    Manchester City

    Eyes will be glued to Craig Bellamy as he returns to his most recent ex-team, with their reportedly messy split fresh in the memories of West Ham supporters. If the temperamental striker gave an earful to his own countrymen last time he linked up with the Welsh national team, one can imagine the words he has for boisterous Hammers.

    PREDICTION

    City have been unable to function outside of their Manchester post code, earning a solitary win away from home all season. Hughes has voiced his concern with this inability to perform, especially from his Brazilian talisman Robinho who looked out of sorts last time around at Portsmouth. Hughes has survived the pressure so far, but fans and the board alike are looking for more form the cashed-up City side and the ex-Blackburn manager could be the first casualty of a new Citizens era if he does not grind out results on the road.

    Gianfranco Zola has come into his own at West Ham after a less then stellar start, charging the Hammers up to a respectable ninth place on the Premier League table. The Londoners will be disappointed with their FA Cup exit, but they are still within touching distance of a UEFA Cup spot for next season. Zola could be tempted away from Upton Park this summer, and it could send West Ham into another spiral of personnel change and yet another season of instability. However, in this encounter, the Italian gaffer will be at ease when he sees the Citizens terrible away record as he hopes to not make it three in a row by dropping this match to Mark Hughes side.

    West Ham 2-1 Manchester City

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