Manchester City travel to east London on Saturday to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United in search of a fifth straight Premier League win to keep the pressure on Chelsea and Manchester United at the top of the table.
Despite an early elimination from the Capital One Cup and the prospect of a similarly premature departure from the Champions League looming on the horizon, City’s defence of the their Premier League crown is going more to plan.
With the season now a quarter of the way through, Roberto Mancini’s team are well placed going into the frenetic winter schedule in third position, just a point adrift of current leaders Chelsea.
After nine games, the Citizens are the only unbeaten side left in the top flight and are currently on a four-game winning streak which includes two clean sheets and eight goals scored.
All appears to be rosy in the league for City, then, and the 13/20 favourites tag that bwin’s 3-way betting market has placed on them for the Saturday evening kick-off seems justified – and yet I have a suspicion that they might find it difficult against West Ham.
Yes, they are still unbeaten. But perhaps only once, in the 3-0 home win over Sunderland, have City looked comfortable and at ease in a game. A far more common occurrence has been Mancini’s men struggling to take a stranglehold on games in the manner you would expect from champions and scraping scarcely deserved wins or fortunate draws.
One such example of this was last Saturday, when they beat Swansea thanks to a long-range Carlos Tevez strike. The performance from City was so laboured that the first-half highlights on ‘Match of the Day’ barely lasted a minute.
Many people will say that scoring late and winning while not playing well is the trait of great champions, but surely it’s only a matter of time before City slip up unless their performances improve dramatically.
So what chance West Ham are the side to inflict that first defeat? Well, bwin has them at 4/1 to win and 14/5 on a draw. The price on a stalemate is appealing given that City have already drawn away to Stoke and Liverpool, neither of whom have exactly lit up the Premier League this season and both currently sit below West Ham.
The Hammers themselves have enjoyed an excellent start on their return to the top flight with 14 points from nine games, ten of those points coming at Upton Park. The most surprising thing about West Ham has been the ease with which they have found the net, with only the top three having scored more at home than Allardyce’s men.
Odds of 9/20 on the home side to score and 13/20 on both sides to score are understandably low, but a longer price can be found on the Hammers breaking the deadlock at 37/20 and the statistics suggest this is a cracking punt.
Not only have West Ham scored first in four of their five home games, City have conceded the opening goal in every one of their away matches so far this season.
Punters registering with bwin today can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on West Ham to score first would return £57 if successful.
And if you’re looking to apply this theory to a bet with longer odds, take the very generous offer of 14/1 on West Ham to lead at the interval before Man City produce their customary fightback in the second half and earn themselves a point.