Friday 6th January. 7:55PM. BBC One
One of the greatest weekends of the entire football season has arrived, and the action gets underway on Friday night as Premier League rivals West Ham and Manchester City do battle in the third round of the FA Cup.
History will be made regardless of the result as this is the first FA Cup clash to take place at the London Stadium. More importantly, though, it promises to be one of the most exciting ties of the round as both teams will think that they have a chance of going deep into the competition.
Only one team can take the first step towards Wembley. Expect the third round to start with a bang.
Hammers Aiming To Bounce Back
Just as Slaven Bilic’s men thought they had turned the corner, back-to-back defeats against Leicester and Manchester United have sapped the Hammers of confidence. Thankfully, the FA Cup offers a timely distraction from those league issues, although they would’ve preferred an easier opponent.
It’s no secret that the Hammers are yet to turn their new home into a fortress, but things do look a little brighter now that some of their attacking players are back in action. In Dimitri Payet, Michail Antonio, and Andy Carroll, they do have players that can cause problems. Given Manchester City’s defensive issues, the hosts at least have reason for optimism.
Having said that, the Londoners did lose 3-1 in a league clash at the Etihad in August, and were very much second best in that clash. They face another uphill battle here, even on home soil.
On their day, though, the Hammers are more than capable of producing the goods. Those days haven’t come all too often since the move from Upton Park. Maybe the magic of the cup will give them a memorable night at their new home.
Will Guardiola Win First FA Cup Game?
Like West Ham, Manchester City have had their own problems this term. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola is a serial winner, and will be looking at this competition as an opportunity to get his hands on a first English trophy. His side will certainly feel more confident if they can overcome this test.
The Citizens have been far from convincing, but they have now registered four wins from their last five matches, losing only to Liverpool. Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero’s return to action and goals following suspension should give the visitors a boost of momentum ahead of this trip to the capital too.
For all their perceived problems, City are scoring plenty on the road. In addition to 22 in 10 Premier League away games, they scored four in three Champions League matches. If they can bring that attacking force to the London Stadium, they should progress with ease.
A draw wouldn’t be the worst result for the visitors, but they’d rather avoid the need for a replay. With both teams eager to seal their progress now rather than in 10 days time, it should be an exciting affair. Hopefully it’ll set the tempo for the entire weekend.
West Ham United v Manchester City Betting
Despite conceding home advantage, the bookies have made Manchester City the firm favourites with Unibet pricing the visitors at 8/13 while West Ham are available at 9/2. Alternatively, if you think it will go to a replay, the draw can be backed at 14/5.
West Ham aren’t as bad as they’ve looked at times, but their problems are undeniable. As much as they’d love to claim a memorable victory in their first cup game at the new stadium, it’s hard to see them overcoming the Citizens.
Guardiola was particularly moody in his post-Burnley interviews, and he’ll be determined to see his side bounce back with a positive display here. We think the Citizens will win, and win well. Nevertheless, we’ll give ourselves the chance at a refund too.
As far as goalscorers go, Aguero stands out as the most likely candidate by a mile. The City striker already scored 14 goals this term in spite of injuries and suspensions.
The Argentine will be confident about scoring on Friday night and, with City most likely to open the scoring, he’s well worth a punt at 10/3.