3 minutes: From the set game, Gundogan pushes in a low flank from the left. For Fabianski, the choice is easy. A nice bright start to City. Pep’s unchanged team quickly finds its rhythm as planned.
2 minutes: Antonio plays a speculative ball for the first time in the lower left, leaving Fornals free in almost an acre of space. For a second the hearts of the city are in your mouth, but Ederson reads the situation and comes out to clear himself up. It turned out that the flag was offside anyway. City Counter, Sterling slips Aguero out of the inner left channel. Aguero wins the first corner of the game.
The hosts get the ball rolling … but only after everyone has a knee. Black lives count. No place for racism. This is the first time City has named an unchanged page in 172 games. October 2017, half a world away.
Not a word from David Moyes, but never mind, because here come the teams! Pretty bubbles fill the air as West Ham drives into the London stadium. They are in their famous red and blue. The city follows them and they are second choice in black. We’ll be gone in a few minutes!
Pep Guardiola speaks to BT Sport. “We decide to continue with the same people to get the rhythm as soon as possible. We were better in the second half [against Porto] But some games take time. We can’t deny what a strong team we played. West Ham is what football is all about when it comes to confidence in a good moment. Or almost everything! You always have talented players too. The teams that play in Europe and in international competition … with the Covid situation you have to adapt, it is what it is. “
West Ham rewards players who have returned from three in Spurs with the name of the same XI. There is no Said Benrahma yet; He’s not quite fit. But Sebastien Haller is on the bench.
Manchester City also remains unchanged. You choose the same XI that won 3-1 against Porto. There is some big news on the bench, however, and it’s good: Kevin De Bruyne is back.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku, Bowen, Soucek, Reis, 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: Steine, Zinchenko, Steffen, De Bruyne, Torres, Foden, Palmer.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
If recent history is a guide it will only end in one direction. West Ham United have met the citizens nine times since the 2-2 draw with Manchester City in January 2016. They lost every game, a sad sequence that got them on the wrong end of an aggregated 30-4 score.
But losing runs are there to be caught, and West Ham has reason to believe this might be their day. They have shown some impressive performances so far this season: a 3-0 win at Leicester, a 4-0 win over Wolves and the absurd comeback with three goals at Spurs last weekend. They are as happy as they have been for some time.
In contrast, the city hasn’t been at its best this season. They were routed by Leicester, held by Leeds, and weren’t particularly impressive as they passed Arsenal last weekend. You’ll also miss their star in Kevin De Bruyne and the influential Fernandinho. However, in the second half against Porto, they walked smoothly through the aisles, suggesting that old confidence is flowing back. The dynamism is increasing, a return to top form is certainly imminent. No better time to meet your bunnies again.
In other words, it’s perfectly balanced … and it works! Start is at 12.30 p.m.