Half-time entertainment … and a reminder that when this match is done, Barry Glendenning will be at the helm for MBM coverage of El Clásico.
HALF TIME: West Ham United 1-0 Manchester City
The Hammers lead thanks to Michail Antonio’s marvellous overhead kick. They’ve looked dangerous in attack, while restricting City to speculative efforts. Much to think about for Pep. Plenty of time to put it right, of course. No flipping!
43 min: Fabianski pumps long. Cancelo takes a heavy touch and allows Bowen to race down the right. That sets West Ham up for a series of speculative shots and crosses. City hold firm, blocking efforts by Masuaku and Soucek, but they’re in panic mode all of a sudden. West Ham’s confidence has ballooned after that slow start.
42 min: Cresswell dinks it down the inside right again, but this time Antonio’s there. He takes down well, but can’t get a shot away, as he’s quickly swarmed by defenders.
41 min: A free kick for West Ham midway into City territory. The hosts line up on the edge of the box. Cresswell takes, and plays a ball down the inside-right channel to nobody. What a waste. But they’ll get another chance, because Fornals has just been barged over in exactly the same place. Take two.
39 min: Cancelo has the beating of Coufal. He drops a shoulder to make space down the left and curls in. Fabianski claims. This match continues to flow freely.
37 min: Masuaku sashays down the left, nearly opening City up. Walker sticks to his guns though and the West Ham wing-back is forced to check back. Cresswell whips into the box instead, but his dangerous-looking cross is deflected, the sting removed, and dribbles back to Ederson.
35 min: Cresswell curls in from the left. Antonio shapes to perform the spectacular again, but Walker reads it well and blocks out for a corner. City deal with the set piece easily enough.
34 min: Garcia channels his inner Beckenbauer, striding up the middle and pearling a low shot inches wide of the left-hand post. Fabianski had it covered, mind.
33 min: Moyes is still sulking. Arms crossed tightly. Frown on. Thin lips.
31 min: On the touchline, David Moyes enters into deep philosophical discussion with the fourth official. You can’t blame him for wondering what the hell is going on. That was a ludicrous bit of refereeing.
29 min: Rice tries to launch an attack and is cynically tugged back by Gundogan. The referee waves play on. The move breaks down. When there’s eventually a break in play, Anthony Taylor opts not to book Gundogan. It’s a preposterous decision after the most brazen of fouls.
27 min: Yep, it’s a game to enjoy … but not necessarily if you’re one of the managers. Pep Guardiola prowls the technical area with a worried frown.
25 min: Two simple flick-ons and Antonio is romping down the left! He nearly breaks clear into the box, but Garcia sticks to him like glue and sticks out a leg. A perfectly timed challenge that allows Ederson to come out and smother. City go straight up the other end and nearly equalise, Cancelo turning Coufal inside out down the left and curling to the far post, where Mahrez tries to guide home from a tight angle. Fabianksi claims. This is a great game now. It could easily have been 2-0 or 1-1 in a matter of seconds.
23 min: A stat to worry City fans from BT Sport: their heroes have lost the last six Premier League away matches in which they’ve fallen behind. Plenty of time yet to snap that run.
22 min: A free kick for City that’s effectively a corner on the right. Mahrez wedges it in. Ogbonna clears with ease.
20 min: A suggestion that the ball accidentally hit Soucek’s hand as he chased that ball down in the build-up. But the VAR isn’t of a mind to overturn that moment of brilliance.
GOAL! West Ham United 1-0 Manchester City (Antonio 18)
This week, they’re one up! Bowen drives down the right again and earns some more good field position. From the next phase, Soucek chases down a loose ball by the right-hand corner flag and cuts back for Coufal, who crosses. Antonio, his back to goal and hassled by Dias, swivels and creams a glorious overhead kick into the left-hand side of the net. Ederson had no chance!
16 min: Cancelo rolls a defence splitter down the left. Aguero races into the box and chips inside for Mahrez, who can’t keep his effort down. Goal kick, and the game remains scoreless. West Ham were three down by this point last weekend.
15 min: City waste the corner. They’re threatening to click into gear, though. Some very attractive football already.
14 min: City probe down the right and win another corner. It’s played back upfield. Gundogan, quarterbacking from deep, creams a wonderful diagonal pass to spring Dias into the box. Dias chests down and is about to shoot from close range when Balbuena blocks him out. Corner.
13 min: Mahrez, Gundogan and Aguero combine crisply down the middle, suddenly turning up the speed with some slick movement and pretty triangles. Gundogan reaches the edge of the box before slashing wildly wide left. Lovely move.
11 min: City have had 70 percent possession so far. Both teams will be happy enough, though, each having shown some promise in attack.
10 min: Now Bowen gets the other side of Cancelo down the right. He reaches the byline and cuts back, but there’s nobody in claret on the end of it. Moments earlier, Antonio nearly squeaked through a small gap on the left. A few things for City to ponder.
9 min: This is better from West Ham, with Bowen going on a tear down the right. Garcia just about keeps up with him, but it’s a throw to West Ham deep in City territory. Coufal flings it into the mixer; it’s easily cleared. But signs that Bowen has the beating of Garcia for pace. That was a brilliant power dribble.
7 min: Bowen wins a free kick for West Ham out on the right. Cresswell swings it in. A brief game of head tennis, and West Ham quickly give up possession again.
6 min: City come at the hosts again. Mahrez slips Walker away down the right. Walker cuts back, intending to find Aguero. Not quite. But the loose ball falls to Cancelo, who tries an ambitious curler towards the top right from 30 yards. No.
5 min: Mahrez drifts in from the right and sends a tempting cross into the West Ham six-yard box. It’s just a wee bit too high for Sterling, and Balbuena is able to head clear. West Ham are struggling to retain possession.
3 min: From the set play, Gundogan slides a low cross in from the left. It’s easy pickings for Fabianski. A nice bright start by City. Pep’s unchanged team quickly finding their rhythm, just as planned.
2 min: Antonio plays a speculative first-time ball down the left and nearly releases Fornals into acres of space. For a second, City hearts are in mouths, but Ederson reads the situation and comes out to clear. Turns out the flag would have gone up for offside anyway. City counter, Sterling slipping Aguero clear down the inside-left channel. Aguero wins the first corner of the match.
The hosts get the ball rolling … but only after everyone takes a knee. Black lives matter. No room for racism. This is the first time City have named an unchanged side in 172 matches. October 2017, half a world away.
No word from David Moyes, but no matter, because here come the teams! Pretty bubbles fill the air as West Ham take to the London Stadium. They’re in their famous claret and blue. City follow them, and they’re turned out in second-choice black. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes!
Pep Guardiola speaks to BT Sport. “We decide to continue with the same guys to get the rhythm as quickly as possible. We were better in the second half [against Porto] but in some games you need time. We cannot deny what a strong team we played. West Ham are in a good moment in terms of confidence, which in football is everything. Or almost everything! They also have talented players, always. The teams who play in Europe and international competition … with the Covid situation, you have to adapt, it is what it is.”
West Ham reward the players who came back from three down at Spurs by naming the same XI. There’s no Said Benrahma yet; he’s not fully fit. But Sebastien Haller is on the bench.
Manchester City are unchanged too. They pick the same XI that won 3-1 against Porto. There’s some big news on the bench, though, and it’s good: Kevin De Bruyne is back.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku, Bowen, Soucek, Rice, Fornals, Antonio.
Subs: Yarmolenko, Lanzini, Noble, Haller, Diop, Fredericks, Randolph.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Garcia, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling.
Subs: Stones, Zinchenko, Steffen, De Bruyne, Torres, Foden, Palmer.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
If recent history is any guide whatsoever, this is only going to end one way. Since drawing 2-2 with Manchester City in January 2016, West Ham United have met the Citizens on nine occasions. They’ve lost every game, a sorry sequence that has them on the wrong end of an aggregate 30-4 scoreline.
But losing runs are there to be snapped, and West Ham have reason to believe this could be their day. They’ve put in some impressive performances so far this season: a 3-0 win at Leicester, a 4-0 rout of Wolves, and that absurd three-goal comeback at Spurs last weekend. They’re as high on life as they’ve been for quite some time.
City by contrast haven’t been at their best so far this season. They’ve been routed by Leicester, held by Leeds, and weren’t particularly impressive in edging past Arsenal last weekend. They’ll also be missing their star man in Kevin De Bruyne and the influential Fernandinho. However, they moved smoothly through the gears in the second half against Porto the other night, suggesting the old confidence is flooding back. Momentum is building, a return to top form surely imminent. No better time to meet their bunnies again.
It’s perfectly balanced, in other words … and it’s on! Kick off is at 12.30pm.