Hughes aims to get City back on track
Gianfranco Zola takes West Ham to Eastlands on Monday to meet a Manchester City side determined to make amends for last Sunday's painful last minute derby defeat at Old Trafford.
Mark Hughes v Gianfranco Zola
The former Chelsea team-mates will be pitting their wits against each other for only the second time in club management. The Italian emerged victorious from the only previous encounter between the two, a 1-0 victory over City at Upton Park at the end of last season, courtesy of a Jack Collison goal.
Zola 's Hammers finished a place above City in ninth last season, but a summer of remarkable spending by the Sheikh Mansour-backed side has seen expectations shift dramatically. While Zola looks to consolidate West Ham's place as a top-ten club, struggling under the weight of financial restraint, Hughes is under pressure to break the Premier League's "big four" monopoly after using his billionaire owner's funds to pack City full of players with proven Premier League pedigree.
City have had an excellent start to the season, winning seven out of eight in all competitions, with their only defeat coming in last week's controversial Manchester derby. Mark Hughes' men responded perfectly by securing their passage to the Carling Cup fourth round with a 2-1 victory over Fulham after extra-time. West Ham also played extra-time on Wednesday night but suffered a demoralising 3-1 defeat at Bolton, adding to their woes after an inconsistent start to the season and a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool last Saturday.
Bellamy has been hitting all the headlines over the past week, grabbing two superb solo goals in the Manchester derby before escaping an FA ban for shoving a United fan in the face. The striker, who has three goals this season, moved from Upton Park to Eastlands in the January transfer window, after an injury-plagued spell at Upton Park in which he scored seven goals in 21 appearances.
There is no questioning Bellamy's talent and with Emmanuel Adebayor still serving a suspension and Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz still injured, the Welshman has an opportunity to forge a partnership with fellow former Hammer Carlos Tevez, having started the past two games together.
Youngster Tomkins will have his hands full with the pace of Bellamy, but the West Ham academy graduate, who has been with the Hammers since he was eight, has impressed with some commanding displays in central defence since his debut in 2008. After going out on loan at Derby at the start of last season, the 20-year-old returned to Upton Park in January and made 13 first-team appearances. With James Collins' recent departure to Aston Villa, Tomkins has an excellent opportunity to earn a permanent starting berth next to Matthew Upson in the heart of the Hammers' defence.
The two central midfielders, both 28, were widely predicted to achieve great things as talented homegrown teenagers, but it is Barry whose career has skyrocketed, while Parker's has reached a plateau. After early promise at Charlton Athletic secured him a big money move to Chelsea, Parker was limited to a bit-part role at Stamford Bridge. He was revitalised by a move to Newcastle and has proved a consistent Premier League performer as West Ham captain, being named the supporters' player of the year last season. But the tough tackling midfielder has struggled to win international recognition, winning just three caps.
Barry, meanwhile, has been one of the most reliable central midfielders in the top flight for the past ten years and his form for Aston Villa earned him a recall to the England team under Steve McClaren in 2007, after four years in the international wilderness. England boss Fabio Capello has handed him a regular starting berth and Barry made the decision to move to Eastlands in the summer to join Mark Hughes' quest for trophies. He has remained a solid performer for City so far this season and has bagged two goals in his past two games.
Diamanti endeared himself to Hammers' fans on his home debut last weekend, netting a penalty in the 3-2 defeat to Liverpool. The striker, signed from Livorno in August, is a set-piece specialist and has already made it known that if the Hammers win any free-kicks or corners, he's the man to take them. The well-coiffed Italian, who netted 13 goals in 32 games last season, is still an unknown quantity to Premier League defences and will be hoping he can use this to his advantage to unlock City's defence on Monday.
Toure has been a rock at the heart of City's defence since his reported £15 million from Arsenal, helping Mark Hughes' men to four straight clean sheets at the start of the season. The defence has struggled in recent matches, shipping two against Arsenal, four in the Manchester derby defeat and one in the midweek Carling Cup clash against Fulham; but Toure, boosted by his winning goal against the Cottagers, will be hopeful of re-asserting City's back-line and shutting out Diamanti and his Hammers side.
• ALL CHANGE: Out of the 18-man squad who were involved in this fixture for City last season, only five players will be in contention to start this season's encounter - Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland, Martin Petrov, Vincent Kompany and Javier Garrido - all the others have either left the club or are out on loan.
• HIT FOR SIX: Craig Bellamy is one of only five players in Premier League history to score for six different top flight clubs- Coventry, Newcastle, Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, West Ham and City. The other four are Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole, Marcus Bent and Nick Barmby.
• FOUL PLAY: Carlton Cole has conceded a foul every 22.5 minutes this season, a rate only burly Bolton hitman Kevin Davies can match.
• CAPTAIN MARVEL: Steve Lomas captained both Manchester City and West Ham during the 1990s and is now plying his trade as manager of non-league side St Neots Town.
• HISTORY BOOKS: In the 76 previous encounters between the clubs, Manchester City have won 34, West Ham 30, and there have been 12 draws.