By Neil Leverett
- Manchester City face West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night in the final game of Premier League Gameweek 26
- Fixture rearranged after Storm Ciara cancellation, giving Fantasy Premier League managers another chance for points
- Citizens play first game since two-year European ban was imposed, with the Hammers scrapping for league points
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – As Manchester City and West Ham United play their rearranged Gameweek 26 fixture on Wednesday night, the threat of European expulsion lingers for the hosts.
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Citizens host West Ham in rearranged fixture
After Storm Ciara battered the nation two weekends ago, the inaugural Premier League winter break had left the hopes of Fantasy Premier League managers in tatters, with Manchester City’s game with West Ham United called off on the morning of the game back on February 9.
With an intense period of fixtures on the horizon however – most prominently for the Citizens – the decision was made to hastily rearrange the game to remain in Game-week 26, with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne – indeed their owners also – still eyeing fantasy spoils to complete the two-week period break.
Having seen all 18 teams play their respective fixtures, Wednesday night at the Etihad Stadium will see little changed in the picture of the Premier League standings however, in the interim period, Pep Guardiola‘s men have been plunged into crisis off the field.
Guardiola’s mounting crisis
Now sitting an astonishing 25 points behind Liverpool in the table – albeit with Wednesday evening’s game in hand – City were away for warm weather training, when the explosive news broke last week that the club were set to handed a two-year European ban for financial irregularities, together with a €30m fine and the potential of a docking of league points to come.
Having breached FIFA’s Financial Fairplay Regulations, Guardiola’s men are now set for a far more pivotal clash with Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League next week, but before that the Hammers come knocking on the door of the Etihad in somewhat of a fret themselves over a drop back down to the Championship looming.
With FFP hanging over Eastlands, the club’s decidedly rocky form this term has suddenly seen the future of Guardiola tossed high into the Manchester air, but the Spaniard may be faced with further problems in terms of personnel with an exodus of players on the cards without the glamour of the Champions League on offer.
Whilst that decision remains to be appealed – in what could be an exhaustive process – attentions must shift to the short-term instead and looking to bounce back from defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in Gameweek 25, the seemingly academic statistic of remaining in the top four must nevertheless be the goal for City and their fans.
Irons scrapping for points
With the hosts on the verge of being plunged into crisis, can West Ham take advantage of their opponents’ growing off-field problems and remedy their own at the Etihad on Wednesday?
Now firmly embroiled in a steadily-simmering relegation dogfight – such is the Hammers’ horrific looking run of league fixtures – David Moyes‘ side travel to the North-East for two Premier League dates in the space of the coming five days, with champions-in-waiting Liverpool to face at Anfield next Monday following.
Still housed in the top flight’s bottom three, the Irons’ task of staying up now looks a tall order. However, in adversity, West Ham have often fought back in unlikely places and given the lack of sharpness we have seen from certain teams returning from their February hiatus this past weekend, could the visitors catch the hosts napping with their current anxieties?
Deadline day signing Jarrod Bowen could be set to be handed somewhat of a baptism of fire for his debut, but what are essentially two ‘free hits’ for West Ham in the coming days, unleashing the former Hull City live-wire represents no real opportunity for long-lasting damage.
West Ham may not be ‘too good to go down’, but against the odds on Wednesday night the East Londoners could begin to forge a rescue path from their rather dark road marked ‘mission impossible’.
Though the expectations are for Aguero et al to run amok on the West Ham back line, don’t yet count out the Hammers, who could yet round off Game-week 26 in pyrotechnic fashion. Regardless, Wednesday’s clash will be fascinating on more than one level.
Manchester City play West Ham United to conclude Premier League Game-week 26 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, kick-off 19:30 UK time.
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