Playing for second

Saturday February 8 2020

 David Silva (C) the Man City captain is sand

David Silva (C) the Man City captain is sandwitched by West Ham players in a previous encounter. Both teams meet at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow. Agencies photo 

LONDON- Premier League clubs will have their first winter break in February - but how long will players get off and what impact will it have? Not in February.

The break has been brought in to give clubs 13 days off after the busy - and unchanged - festive calendar (more on the length of that break below). But it has been structured so eight Premier League teams are in action on one weekend and the other 12 play on the following weekend.

Of the eight in action this weekend, title holders Manchester City will look to get back to winning ways when they take on West Ham at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Citizens somehow lost 2-0 to Tottenham last weekend despite dominating for much of the game including missing a first-half penalty.
The defeat in North London saw City’s slim hopes of catching Liverpool vanish as the defending Premier League champions now sit a staggering 22 points behind the Merseysiders so Pep Guardiola’s men are now realistically playing for second position. Manchester City have now lost as many times in 25 games this season as they did in the previous two seasons combined.

There are plenty of reasons for their fall away this season, but you wonder whether one of them is a sort of ‘Pep fatigue’, a team that has been working with Guardiola for so long and they’re so regimented in their thinking and following of his doctrine, that all spontaneity and individual thought has been drummed out of them.

Perhaps they’re just having a bad season, intimidated into submission by the merciless machine at Anfield, the sort of thing that can easily happen but they could recover from. But now that the Premier League is gone this season, it will be interesting to see how they respond.


West Ham will head to the Etihad also looking to get back to winning ways as Saturday’s 3-3 draw at home to Brighton made it six games in all competitions without victory so David Moyes is already feeling the pressure in the Hammers’ hot-seat.
Man City will be without Oleksandr Zinchenko after being sent off against Tottenham so Guardiola will be praying Benjamin Mendy overcomes a knock to start at left-back.

Leroy Sane has stepped up his recovery from a knee injury but this game comes too soon while Raheem Sterling has a thigh injury.
West Ham won’t have Jack Wilshere (groin) while Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson are also still on the sidelines through injury.
Then, Brighton will hope to kick on following their draw with West Ham and will be desperate to end their run of five league games without a win when they host Watford.