23 October 2014 14:25
Sam Allardyce believes West Ham will not get a better chance to defeat Manchester City as the two prepare to meet at Upton Park on Saturday.
West Ham have benefited from a productive transfer window in the early weeks of the Premier League campaign, with the strike duo of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia particularly impressive since joining from Metz and Pachuca respectively.
Both men found the net with fine headers in the 3-1 win at Burnley last weekend, a result that left West Ham inside the top four after eight matches.
Reigning champions City – who clinched the 2013-14 crown with a 2-0 win over West Ham on the final day of last season – overcame Allardyce’s side four times during the previous campaign, scoring 14 goals to their opponents’ one.
But Allardyce believes his team are in much better shape this time around, with City coming off the back of a disappointing 2-2 draw away at CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
“We’ve got a different team to last season,” he said. “Obviously the players that are still here will remember that we didn’t get anything from them.
“There wasn’t much we could do in the Capital One [League Cup] semi-finals due to injuries at that time.
“They’re a fabulous side, but if we’re going to get anything from them it’s now, while we’re in form. As well as them coming back from a Champions League away game.
“We’re in good, confident form but for me it’s about getting the players to their top level. We’ll have to play like we did [in the 3-1 win] against Liverpool, probably even better. We’ll have to work hard and make sure we contain their fantastic front line especially.”
The home side will have to contend with the in-form Sergio Aguero, who followed up his four-goal salvo against Tottenham last weekend with the opening strike in Moscow in midweek.
City led 2-0 at the break thanks to that strike and James Milner’s effort, but were sloppy in the second half as CSKA came back to rescue a point.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men sit second in the table, five points adrift of Chelsea, having won their previous three league outings, but after the draw in Russia, right-back Pablo Zabaleta lamented City’s inability to grind out victories when not at their best.
“It’s not the first time this has happened and it’s something we need to sort out as soon as possible,” he said.
“We are one team when we play with intensity, with the ball. When we start to give some balls away so cheaply, we are not the same team. It’s then that we don’t know how to control the game.
“Sometimes you can win games even when you are not playing at your best and I think we find that hard.”
City’s Frank Lampard is a doubt to make a return to his former club with a thigh injury picked up against Spurs, while Samir Nasri remains out with a groin problem.
West Ham received a double boost on Thursday with the news that Cheikhou Kouyate (groin) and James Tomkins (thigh) were available, although Mauro Zarate (knock) and Guy Demel (thigh) are doubtful.