Erratic form. Injury woes of such magnitude as to, for once, deserve the term “crisis”. Barely any fit strikers. A wretched record at Upton Park. Ee, it’s all glamour this Premier League lark, isn’t it?
It won’t be for the faint-hearted, this one. Not at a preposterous £43, and with Sky Sports preparing to beam the gory details into the nation’s living rooms. But while we can feel a little down in the dumps, we must raise the team. And they must raise themselves, because however unpromising the circumstances, we no longer have the luxury of writing games off and waiting for easier ones – largely because we invariably lose the easier ones anyway (Burnley, Swansea, Leicester, West Brom…), but mainly last weekend’s grim outing combined unhappily with other results to deposit us back in the bottom three. Points are needed, not just next month when everyone’s fit, but right now.
The task, then. West Ham are having a stellar season, vying with Southampton for the most unexpectedly impressive ascent of the table. They currently lie 8th, on the cusp of European qualification, and with fears of the bottom three long extinguished. A hefty 33 points have already been amassed, 20 of them at home, and their view is upwards, not downwards.
Avoiding defeat has been a hallmark of their season. Three at home will be a slight disappointment, but with only three away as well, they regularly add to their points tally. 16 goals from 11 home matches isn’t amazing (though it compares well to City’s paltry 10), but a relatively miserly concession of 10 suggests our makeshift attack will need to exceed expectations just to register once.
That there’s been talk of putting Harry Maguire up front is a sign of City’s desperate situation, though Sone Aluko and Gastón Ramírez may be fit to play. For West Ham, Winston Reid and Guy Demel may return to action after recent injuries. Though presumably a little jaded after their epic midweek Cup game against Everton, they’ll at least have the confidence boost of emerging successfully from it. Their form has actually dipped a little lately, and they’re winless in the first four Premier League games.
Set against that is City’s ghastly record at Upton Park. The Tigers have lost the last five trips there, including a 7-1 thrashing in 1990 – the same year in which our last victory came there. Nor is our overall record against the Hammers much better, with last season’s 1-0 win at home the only success in eight. Crumbs of comfort are sadly lacking. But the incentive’s a good one. Today’s results weren’t bad for City, meaning that a win would elevate us to 14th (or 13th if it’s by four goals…) – that’s a 9/2 shot with the bookies. The draw that’d lift us to 16th is 11/4 – but a home win is just 3/4. Hm. C’mon City.