West Ham United-Manchester City Preview
A rather disappointing season continues to get worse for Manchester City, who must find a way to focus on the pitch whilst dealing with some rough times off it.
With their Champions League ban hanging over the club like a storm cloud, the Citizens aim to avoid a third consecutive defeat over all competitions on Wednesday night against West Ham United in a rearranged fixture at the Etihad.
Manchester City (16-3-6) are back in action for the first time since the club received a two-season Champions League ban by UEFA after it ruled that they "seriously breached" regulations when it came to team licensing and sponsorship deals. The club was also fined $30 million euros, or $33 million.
Not surprising, City plan to appeal the ruling. The ban runs until the 2022-23 season, but the team will play Read Madrid in the Champions League round of 16 next week.
"This is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA," the club said in a statement. "With this prejudicial process now over, the club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity."
Should the ban remain in place, whether as is or in a lesser form, that could mean City might have a hard time signing attractive player options and even manager Pep Guardiola down the road. Though, it was reported this week by the Manchester Evening News that Guardiola's agent said the famed gaffer will remain with the club at least through the end of his contract - which ends in June 2021.
On the pitch, City's 7-1-0 run over all competitions ended with a 1-0 loss to rivals Manchester United in League Cup play at the end of January and followed with a 2-0 defeat at Spurs in the Premier League on Feb. 2. The latter leaves the Citizens second in the table, but a distant 25 points back of runaway leaders Liverpool.
Man City last went three consecutive matches without a goal during March 2016. They have not dropped back-to-back Premier League games since December 2018, and rolled to a 5-0 season-opening victory over West Ham (6-6-13) on Aug. 10.
This match was originally scheduled for Feb. 9, but severe weather in the area postponed it until this mid-week. City star Raheem Sterling recorded a hat trick in the reverse fixture with West Ham, and also reportedly does not plan to skip town after the European ban.
Sterling has 20 goals over all competitions but suffered a hamstring injury against Spurs. For Sterling, the goal appears to be fit for the Real Madrid match on Feb. 26.
Sergio Aguero, meanwhile, has 16 goals within the league and totaled seven during a four-game top-flight scoring streak that ended against Tottenham. He scored this season versus West Ham, who have dropped three in a row at the Etihad.
Sitting atop the relegation zone, the Hammers are 0-2-3 since a 4-0 home win over Bournemouth on New Years' Day. Their most recent league action came in a 3-3 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion on Feb. 1, when West Ham were unable to hold a 3-1 advantage in the second half.
Despite the club's current state, manager David Moyes still has belief the tide will be turned.
"What we need to improve on is the quality, our results, our performances, and more importantly than anything, we have to win," Moyes told West Ham's official website. "I'm more than confident we will climb the table. I think the players here are more than capable ... I think they are fully aware of the situation we're in and the improvement we need to make."
West Ham's Robert Snodgrass notched a brace versus Brighton, but has never scored in six overall games with City.
Updated February 18, 2020