Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo celebrates his goal against Liverpool, December 26. Reuters
A team that have been near invincible at home this season against one struggling at the wrong end of the English Premier League table, and were thrashed by Championship opponents in the FA Cup third round on Sunday - on paper, there looks like being only one result.
When Manchester City host West Ham in the Capital One Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday night, the former will start as the overwhelming favourites for not just the opening leg, but the entire tie.
"Tomorrow is one of the two games of the semifinal of Capital One, it is very important we play here at home and I suppose we are going to have to have a very good performance to try to win against West Ham," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said.
Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw by Championship side Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Saturday, but that disappointing result paled in comparison to the 5-0 thumping handed out by Nottingham Forest to West Ham, with Sam Allardyce's decision to play with inexperienced youngsters backfiring sensationally.
"They had an awful result, but I don't think they played their best starting eleven," Pellegrini said of West Ham's loss. "I think they played with young players and I am absolutely sure it will be a very different game here to what they played on Sunday - so it's important for our team to play well and to try to win.
"I think it's very important to play the first leg here at home, so tomorrow [Wednesday] we will try to win and if we can score more than one goal it will be very important for the second leg."
Allardyce, whose side are beset by injuries and suspensions, will rue his decision to play the youngsters against Forest, if City turn them over in the first leg. The manager, however, hopes West Ham can put in a performance akin to the one at White Hart Lane, when they knocked Tottenham out in the quarterfinals.
"We've got to get a team out that has competed exceptionally well in this competition throughout," Allardyce said on Wednesday. "None more so than what we did in the last round against Tottenham Hotspur so if I can get a performance like that from the players tomorrow night then we will be in with a chance.
"Whether we can take our opportunities as we've done in previous rounds will be a key moment for us, we won't get many as we know, but we have to be defensively resilient as we were at Tottenham and then take full advantage of what chances we may create.
"We don't have to beat them on Wednesday night we have to come back with something realistic to beat them at home if we can. We have to stay as focussed as we can and we have to nullify what is a great attacking force at home."
West Ham striker Carlton Cole celebrates after scoring against Arsenal in the English Premier League, December 26. Reuters
Team news: Manchester City: Martin Demichelis returns from injury, while Micah Richards is not in the squad despite returning to training. Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic and Jack Rodwell are definitely out, with Dedryck Boyata suspended following his red card against Blackburn. Winger Jesus Navas is unlikely to be risked with a knee injury.
Pellegrini said he would make some changes to the side that could only manage a draw against Blackburn.
"I don't know exactly how many changes we are going to make, but we are going to make some changes," Pellegrini said.
West Ham: New signing Roger Johnson could be in line for a debut, with defensive trio James Tomkins, James Collins and Winston Reid all ruled out, while the game might come too soon for Andy Carroll and Ricardo Vaz Te. Mark Noble, though, could return to the starting lineup with Allardyce hopeful the midfielder can recover from a calf injury in time, with Kevin Nolan set to serve his second of a four-match suspension.
"It's a massive game, I did look at the fixtures and after speaking to a few people they told me that I if I did sign that would be my first game, so hopefully I'll be in the team," said Johnson, who joined the club on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
"If not, I'll be on the bench and if I come on I'll try and do what I can to get the club into the final."
Key men: Manchester City: Samir Nasri is having a quietly exceptional season at the Etihad, and the former Arsenal man could be instrumental in ensuring City book their Wembley place.
West Ham: Joe Cole is one of the West Ham players who know what it feels like to be in a Wembley final and win trophies. The playmaker needs to come to the fore against City in both legs if the Hammers to have any chance of progressing.
"It is a massive game for the club and a massive game for the supporters," Cole told the club's official website. "For the players, it is an opportunity to play in a cup final. I have been lucky enough to play in loads of cup finals and win trophies and I want that for the West Ham fans, my team-mates and the manager.
"There are a lot of good, experienced players here who have never played in cup finals in England, so I want it for them. The manager deserves to lead a team out at Wembley in a cup final after the career he has had and it would be great for the West Ham fans to go to Wembley and win."
Expected lineups: Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Toure, Fernandinho; Milner, Silva, Nasri; Negredo.
West Ham: Jaaskelainen; Demel, McCartney, Johnson, O'Brien; Noble, Diame; Downing, Joe Cole, Jarvis; Carlton Cole.
Prediction: 3-0 to Manchester City
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