Manchester City-West Ham United Preview
LONDON (SE) - The visitors are just a point off the top of the table, and West Ham manager Sam Allardyce refused to accept that his opposite number is under pressure, despite City's sketchy start to the season.
"I think that (Southampton manage) Nigel Adkins and (Reading boss) Brian McDermott are under more pressure than Roberto Mancini," said Allardyce on West Ham's official website. "I cannot be too worried about what is happening behind the scenes at Manchester City because my job is to pick a team to play against the quality they have got. You need a lot of quality against a back four of that stature and of course they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world."
Despite Allardyce's claims, Mancini has been subjected to some negative headlines, particularly due to his tactical switches and failures in the Champions League. However, midfielder Gareth Barry has this week come out in support of his manager.
"I missed the whole pre-season with my operation," said Barry. "The lads said they worked on three at the back, as the manager wanted it as a Plan B. The players didn't seem to be overly-confident playing it. If the manager wants to go with it you have to do your best and respect it.
"When results don't go right these things get picked up on. At the other end of the scale he made an attacking decision at West Brom and Edin Dzeko came on and scored two goals. Those things don't get spoken about. You expect these things to come out when things go badly but we just have to stick together and go forward. We started that on Saturday with a clean sheet and three points."
West Ham are flying high in the league with 14 points picked up already, but Allardyce is wary of getting carried away with a tricky run of fixtures coming up.
"We knew (about the fixtures) at the start of the season and that is why we were looking to get the points on the board that we did and like I say, nine games have passed by and we have had two disappointing results, both away," said Allardyce. "Certainly Southampton and Reading will be looking at us and be a little jealous, but there is this group of fixtures and it will be very difficult indeed.
"We accept that we probably won't get as many points as we have collected in the first part of the season but we have got to try and get as many points as we possibly can and then move on to late December and January."
West Ham are without Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder), while Matthew Taylor (calf) and Jack Collison (knee) are doubts. Man City have doubts over Pablo Zabaleta (hamstring), David Silva (hamstring), Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Javi Garcia (thigh). Michah Richards is out until February with a knee problem.
Man City have lost just one of their last 12 against West Ham, winning eight. Their last defeat to the Hammers was back in 2006. City are the only unbeaten team in the Premier League, and haven't lost in 15 league game stretching back to last season. West Ham's on-loan centre-forward Andy Carroll has scored just twice in his last 33 Premier League games… but has four goals in eight career appearances against Saturday's opponents. Edin Dzeko has scored five goals for Manchester City this season, despite starting just two games.