West Ham United could pull off a giant-killing when they play host to a struggling Manchester City in the third round of the FA Cup on Friday evening.
United will be taking the competition a lot more seriously at home than the visitors who could rest a number of key players with one eye on their Premier League title challenge.
West Ham reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last season, losing out to eventual winners Manchester United in a replay at Upton Park, and will be desperate for a deep run to qualify for the Europa League next season as they’ve given themselves a mountain to climb in the Premier League.
Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United side have recently suffered consecutive league defeats, but they are sure to perform on television cameras against a vulnerable City outfit who have lost three games in the last four-and-a-half weeks.
West Ham themselves have won two of three home games in the festive period and have long valued the FA Cup as a competition worth winning. United won’t rest players for the encounter and will fancy their chances given they’ve beaten a giant like Chelsea in a cup game this season already.
Man City to beat the Hammers in the league back in August, but their own dip in form means Friday’s clash isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Manchester City are coming immediately off the back of a win in the Premier League against Burnley, but the Sky Blues are far from convincing going into their third round encounter with West Ham.
Pep Guardiola’s side have been beaten by the likes of Chelsea, Leicester City and Liverpool in the last month, and have managed just one away win in all competitions since November.
As a result, they come into Friday’s clash in poor shape and aren’t going to field their strongest side from what has been seen of the Sky Blues in the EFL Cup.
Guardiola has long rested his key players in cup games, even in an all-top flight encounter, and that could play into the hands of West Ham at the Olympic Stadium, especially with the home fans making the London ground an intimidating place for the youngsters who are brought into the squad.
It’s also worth noting that West Ham have enjoyed two wins against Manchester City in their last five Premier League meetings, beating them at home as well as at the Etihad Stadium. And with United adopting a counter-attacking style, they could well sting City on the break.
A common weakness of Manchester City’s this season has been their vulnerability to pacey sides on the counter. Their porous defence have conceded one or more goals in 11 of their last 13 games in all competitions, so the Hammers have a real chance of breaching the backline at least once.
They opened up Manchester United on a number of occasions in their recent league clash but lacked the finishing touch when through on goal. Friday’s FA Cup third round clash might be settled by which side takes their chances.