Manchester City come into the final weekend of the season knowing that a draw at home to West Ham on Sunday will be sufficient to see them crowned Premier League champions for the second time in three years (15:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Man City’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on Wednesday saw them ascend to the top of the table, two points clear of Liverpool in second, with 83 points from 26 wins, five draws and six defeats. They have a comfortable 13-goal advantage on goal difference.
Following a tense first hour of play, two goals in quick succession from Edin Dzeko sent Man City on their way to victory at home to Villa, with late goals from Stevan Jovetic and Yaya Toure adding further gloss to the scoreline. The four-goal haul took them to 100 for the season and edged them to within touching distance of Chelsea’s 103-goal Premier League record.
Manuel Pellegrini (pictured) emphasised the importance he places on playing attractive, attacking football in his post-match press conference. With neat and inventive attacking midfielders, quality strikers of all styles, Fernandinho and Toure driving forward from midfield and the full-backs getting forward to good effect, his side possess a variety of attacking threats.
Man City have not always been so impressive at the other end of the pitch, but, perhaps unsurprisingly for a side constructed on a larger budget, have maintained a better balance in this respect than their nearest challengers Liverpool. They have the second-best defensive record in the Premier League, having conceded an average of one goal per match.
Pellegrini looks likely to be without the injured Jesus Navas (ankle) and Sergio Aguero (groin) for this match, while a lack of match fitness is likely to limit Matija Nastasic to the substitutes bench if he makes the squad.
West Ham travel to the Etihad on the back of a 2-0 win at home to Tottenham Hotspur. They are 12th in the Premier League table, with 40 points from 11 wins, seven draws and 19 defeats, although could drop to as low as 16th in the final reckoning if results go against them on this final day.
The Hammers made short work of a lacklustre Spurs side last weekend. They went in at the break two goals to the good thanks to an own goal and a strike from Stewart Downing, and then forced the away goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, into a couple of sharp stops during the second half. The victory ended a run of four consecutive defeats for Sam Allardyce’s side.
Allardyce found his position under threat following a run of one win in 10 matches between early December and late January, but four successive victories thereafter saw his side pull away from relegation trouble. Three wins in their last 10 matches has proved sufficient to both secure the club’s place in the top flight and see Allardyce retain his job.
The Hammers are a strong and functional side – a clear departure from the club’s history of attractive passing football. They have played a higher number of long balls and crosses as a percentage of total passes (24.93%) than any other side in the Premier League this season and only six clubs have scored less than their current total of 40 goals.
Marco Borriello (hamstring) is likely to be West Ham’s only absentee, with Allardyce otherwise having a full squad to pick from.
Man City v West Ham Betting Tips
These sides have met three times this season, with City emerging triumphant on all occasions. They won 3-1 in the league and recorded a 9-0 aggregate victory when the sides met in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, including a 6-0 win at the Etihad. West Ham have won just one of the last 10 meetings between the sides in all competitions.
City have the league title within their grasp and are highly unlikely to surrender it at this late stage of the campaign. They will start out on the front foot and have the requisite quality and variety in the final third to break down a West Ham defence that has already shown itself incapable of dealing with the City attack this season.
It took two stoppage time goals for City to claim the 2011/2012 league title on the final day of the season. This time around it should be a much more comfortable experience for both the team and their supporters.
- Back Manchester City -2 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 4/5 with Paddy Power. The bet pays out if City win by more than two goals, while your stake is returned if they win by exactly two.
- Dzeko has scored five times in his last three appearances and also notched a double when City thrashed the Hammers 6-0 in the Capital One Cup earlier this season. Back Edin Dzeko to score at anytime @ 8/11 with Coral.