The injuries to Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho not only deprive Manchester City of two more central defensive options, leaving Nathan Ake as the last man standing – and he is standing on a dodgy ankle – they are likely to have repercussions elsewhere. Rodri was shifted back into defense after Fernandinho’s departure at Wolves, and he is the most likely replacement if the two Molineux casualties are not fit.
That leaves a gap in midfield, and with City favoring a double pivot at Wolves, they could well do the same again and fill it with Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva. That would not be ideal but the fact that the Blues have plenty of attacking options means that the impact stops there – Bernardo played as one of the front three on Wednesday, but with Riyadh Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish all able to come into the side, he can be spared at the London Stadium.
With four points needed to be sure of the title, traditional logic would mark West Ham away down as a potential draw, especially given the defensive injury issues City have, leaving the Blues to finish the job at home to Aston Villa next week. But the fact is that City’s away record is better than their home one this season, with 45 points garnered on their travels compared to 44 at the Etihad Stadium. They are unbeaten on their travels since the opening day at Tottenham.
They have stepped it up away from home, too, winning their last two away games by four-goal margins, so it will be a case of going all-out for victory.
De Bruyne again
After his extraordinary performance at Molineux, the world-class Belgian star deserved a rest. He did not even get substituted off by Pep Guardiola in that game, as if the manager was enjoying the spectacle and, like the rest of us, didn’t want it to end.
De Bruyne spoke about fatigue after the game, but with two games left, and a full week to recover after this one, he is almost certain to be asked to go again.
This season has seen the Blues rack up an incredible 145 goals in all competitions, not bad for a side without a striker. That has moved them into fourth place in the list of top-scoring English sides of all time, in all competitions – topped by City’s 2018-19 side (169 goals) and Manuel Pellegrini’s 2013-14 outfit (156).
Five more goals from their remaining two fixtures would see the current team move into third place on the all-time list, although they are being hotly pursued by Liverpool, who have 142 goals with four games to go.
The thought of Michail Antonio taking on a City defense devoid of Ruben Dias, John Stones and now probably Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho, was not a pleasant one. But the bustling Hammers striker is himself an injury doubt, along with center back Craig Dawson and fellow forward Said Benrahma, and if he misses out, it would be a relief to the beleaguered Blues.
The title cannot be won in east London, but a win would put the Blues within a point of clinching it – and a sizeable win would give Liverpool an almighty task of overturning a huge goal difference advantage in their final two games.