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BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE

Upton Park, England

Attendance: 35005

* Local time based on your geographic location.

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Watch Live on: ESPN(UK)

Big Sam hopes for big upset

Robin Hackett
Sam Allardyce is aiming to add to Roberto Mancini's concerns on Saturday

On the numerous occasions Roberto Mancini has bemoaned the depth of his squad, he has received little sympathy. A club now defined by lavish spending still appears to be destabilised with alarming regularity by absentees, and they make the visit to East London amid concerns over their options in midfield and at right-back.

- Blog: Big Sam's big team hoodoo

The news that Javi Garcia and Pablo Zabaleta should be available to return is a boost for Mancini during a period in which he can ill afford to be relying on rookies or players out of position. City sit only a point from the Premier League's summit, but they have struggled to defend their crown with real conviction to this point, while their Champions League campaign has so far proved even more disappointing than last year's.

"I know the problem and I will resolve very quickly this problem," Mancini had said in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund, but a month on the solution still appears elusive. Tactical tinkering has brought only instability and - not for the first time - stories have appeared in the press talking of a mutiny against the manager. The captain, Vincent Kompany, issued an angry denial, but such tales will persist until performances improve.

They will face a tough test at West Ham. Sam Allardyce's side have made an impressive start to life back in the top flight and currently sit comfortably in mid-table. The manager, ever keen to extoll the importance of getting the basics right, made no effort to disguise his displeasure with an abject midfield performance in the 2-1 defeat at Wigan last weekend and has been at pains to stress in the build-up to Saturday's game that every one of his players must deliver if City are to be denied.

"I'm looking to get back to what we do best and of course having to do that against Manchester City," he said. "It will be a necessity to play to our very, very best - the whole 11, never mind one or two being off their game - if we are to achieve a result against the champions of the Premier League."

Allardyce has said it would represent the "ultimate bonus" if his side can deny one of the league's elite sides, but he will know that, with Newcastle, Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool representing five of their next six opponents, they are obliged to raise their game.

West Ham player to watch: Andy Carroll. The on-loan Liverpool striker has yet to open his account for the Hammers and, while Sam Allardyce is happy with his overall contribution, the forward is frustrated. A chance to face the champions could be the tonic: Carroll has netted four goals against Manchester City, more than any other Premier League club.

Manchester City player to watch: Carlos Tevez. His controversial return to the City team last season was perhaps the deciding factor in reviving an ailing title bid; Mancini will be hoping that, after his match-winning goal against Swansea, he can revive the team once again. He has the ability, and the mindset, to make an impact against his former club.

Key battle: Kevin Nolan v Yaya Toure. Toure has not yet recaptured the phenomenal form of last season but, with David Silva unavailable through injury, City are reliant on the Ivorian to provide the midfield spark to see them through a rocky period. He will come up against Nolan, who has netted four league goals at Upton Park already this season and is capable of punishing a defence that has lacked cohesion in the current campaign.

Trivia: In their last 15 Premier League meetings with Manchester City, West Ham have not scored more than once in a single game.

Stats: Edin Dzeko has the best goals-per-minute ratio in the Premier League this season, netting every 55 minutes and 36 seconds on average.

Odds: West Ham are available at odds of 5.00 at bet365, with City at 1.66 and the draw at a generous 4.00. Andy Carroll is available at 9.00 to open the scoring.

Prediction: Though City have rarely produced the form they are capable of this season, they should still have enough to snatch a narrow victory.

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