On Sunday, Manchester City host West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium for the third game of the Premier League Season. Pep Guardiola’s team will be aiming for their third straight win of the season, while Slaven Bilic’s will be looking to shake off the dust from an embarrassing early exit from the Europa League against Astra Giurgiu.
The controversy surrounding Joe Hart’s future at City has dominated the narrative leading up to this game, but the match will most likely be won or lost in other areas. Here are five keys stats ahead of the game.
Sergio Agüero’s goals
In a career essentially entirely composed of hot streaks, it is little surprise to see the diminutive Argentine on one again. He has scored six goals in his last three games, 18 in his last 19 in 2016 and he’s been involved in eight goals in his last seven league games against West Ham.
Agüero’s recent excellence means that the Hammers shouldn’t just be afraid of him scoring, they should be afraid of him scoring more than one. If West Ham are to have any hope in this game, they need to find a way of stopping him from continuing his streak.
West Ham’s win percentage without Dimitri Payet
Since August 2015, West Ham have won 48% of the games in which Payet has played, and just 22% without him. He faces a late fitness test to see whether he can play on Sunday, but if he does, West Ham have a considerably higher chance of winning.
The French star’s influence on West Ham is plain to see. His set-piece deliveries alone make him an asset to the team – add to that his silky touch, excellent vision and eye for goal, and you have a potent combination. Payet is a match winner for the Hammers – if he doesn’t start, West Ham might be finished.
Raheem Sterling’s resurgence
Raheem Sterling has contributed three assists in his last two games, after providing 1 in 12 before that. The 21-year old endured a lot last season, facing both a loss of form which led to him losing his place in City’s starting XI, and also the general derision of the public – with his name accompanied by boos at almost any ground he visited. He appears to have thrown off the shackles of the last season, however, as his start to this one has been more than encouraging.
The England international was excellent against Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of the Champions League play-off game, followed that up by winning a penalty against Sunderland, and then recorded an unselfish assist in last weekend’s 4-1 against Stoke. If this run of form is anything to go by, West Ham will do well to keep him quiet on Sunday.
Kevin De Bruyne’s creativity
Since the start of 2014/15 in big 5 European leagues, only Messi (35) has more assists than Kevin De Bruyne (30). West Ham, weakened by injuries, will be looking to put men behind the ball and counterattack. Manchester City need someone to thread the needle and break down a resolute defence, and they have just the man for the job.
The Belgian had an excellent first season at the Etihad and provided 10 goals and 9 assists in 30 starts across all competitions. At 25 he probably still has a few years until he peaks – a notion that will have every team in the league shifting nervously.
Michail Antonio’s aerial ability
Since the start of the 2015/16 season, Michail Antonio has scored a Premier League high seven headed goals (joint with Olivier Giroud). With Andy Carrol and Andre Ayew out, West Ham need to find their aerial threat, and goals, from another source – Antonio could well be the one to step up to the plate.
West Ham will likely be without the lion’s share of the possession on Sunday, and will need to make the most of any set pieces they get. His late header against Bournemouth secured a victory at London Stadium, and he will be hoping to do the same at the Etihad on Sunday.