The Premier League is finally upon us as the ball will start rolling on Friday night at Selhurst Park. While Arsenal and Crystal Palace kick off the season, title holders Manchester City will start their campaign against West Ham at the London Stadium.
The Blues had a successful preseason campaign as they secured two victories against Club America and Bayern Munich. The spotlight was on the club’s new number 9 Erling Haaland, and it only took 12 minutes for him to get on the scoresheet. However, they faltered against their title rivals, Liverpool in the Community Shield in the following week.
West Ham, meanwhile, arrive into the season after an incredible campaign. Following a 7th place finish and a European semi final, David Moyes has further bolstered his squad for the 2022/23 season. The likes of Gianluca Scamacca and Nayef Aguerd are welcome additions to the side and there could be more to the roster.
This match is a repeat of the 2019/20 season opener where Man City ran riot at the expense of the Hammers. They secured an impressive 5-0 victory with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: 7th August 2022.
Time: 4:30 PM BST.
Venue: London Stadium.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistants: Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Stuart Attwell.
VAR: Mike Dean
Assistant VAR: Eddie Smart.
Pep Guardiola’s team were certainly not fully fit against Liverpool during the Community Shield. The Reds looked sharper and had better control of the game, as a result. However, with the majority of the squad gaining match fitness and ready to bounce back after the 3-1 defeat, they will look to start the season positively.
Guardiola has confirmed that Aymeric Laporte will miss the entire month because of a knee injury he suffered back in May against Wolves. John Stones, meanwhile, could be in contention to start against West Ham despite missing the trip to the US and the match against Liverpool.
Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan also missed the preseason tour, but they played a part against Liverpool. The former especially was impressive once he came on as a substitute. New singing Erling Haaland will expect to get the nod ahead of Julian Alvarez.
West Ham had a relatively quiet preseason, but several players gained match fitness and will be rearing to start the season where they left. At the same time, Gianluca Scamacca will not be available against the Premier League Champions as Moyes confirmed he is behind on fitness levels.
Angelo Ogbonna is another player who will remain on the sidelines, but he has trained with the under 23s and should be available soon. New signing Nayef Aguerd underwent ankle surgery last week and would be a big miss for West Ham. Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen will look to cause havoc against the Man City defense like they did the last time.
Manchester City are coming into the game after a poor result at the King Power Stadium. They were outfoxed by Jurgen Klopp’s men as they started their season in a sluggish fashion. West Ham will also be another huge test for the Citizens as their directness could cause trouble to City’s back line.
Just last season, Antonio’s hold up play and Bowen’s runs in behind was Moyes’ solution to breach Pep Guardiola’s makeshift defense. However, with Haaland, City’s dynamics will change as the team looks to adapt to the Norwegian striker.
Pep has hinted at playing a 4-2-3-1 shape in the preseason games with the wingers occupying the half spaces and fullbacks providing the width. This could create overloads in the wide areas and, with Haaland’s ability in front of the goal, they will look to penetrate the Hammers’ defense.
However, this could be a blessing in disguise for West Ham, as they could set up in a compact low block and hit City on the break. Moreover, this has been Moyes’ strategy against Man City as Bowen’s movement caused all kinds of troubles in the 2-2 draw in May last season.
The Londoners will set up in a 4-2-3-1 and let Antonio’s hold up do the talking after winning the ball. Furthermore, he is also a willing runner and will look to run in behind the channels when City’s fullbacks are caught high in the pitch. With that being said, Moyes will be wary of Man City’s clinical striker and the battle between him and Zouma or Dawson could decide the fate of the match.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne is Man City’s center piece on this revamped side. He has been given the free-role towards the end of last season and has flourished in this position. Although he looked lackluster against Liverpool, he remains a huge threat to the Hammers.
His link-up with Haaland and Foden could be a handful for West Ham and the likes of Rice and Soucek will need to be cautious of when to press the midfielder and when not to. His four goals against Wolves back in May should serve as a reminder for Zouma and Co, as they will look to close down the space and limit his explosiveness.
West Ham United:
Declan Rice has been impressive since his move to the defensive midfield role. After consistent performances, he is now the club captain after Mark Noble’s departure. Interceptions, tackles and closing down the space has been his strengths as he has shown it time and again in the past few years.
But Man City could prove to be a different test, as Guardiola’s men are the masters of moving around the opponent. Rice himself has stated how De Bruyne is his toughest opponent. So, the onus could lie on the 32-cap England international to limit KDB’s threat.
Man City Predicted XI vs West Ham: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri, Bernardo Silva; Foden, De Bruyne, Grealish; Haaland.
West Ham United Predicted XI vs Man City: Areola; Coufal, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Fornals, Lanzini; Antonio.