Tactically speaking - Manchester City

Tactically speaking

West Ham United complete their 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season knowing they could still have a massive say in the destination of the title.

Sunday's hosts Manchester City realistically need just a point to hold off Liverpool and take the trophy for a second time in three seasons, but a West Ham win would open up the door for the Reds to steal top spot.

The Hammers too have plenty still to play for, with an away victory securing 12th place in the standings, having been 19th on New Year's Day.

West Ham United

Mark Noble

Ahead of the final game of the season, football statistics website WhoScored.com have previewed West Ham United's encounter with Manchester City.

The Hammers will be buoyed for their trip to the Etihad following their London derby win over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. However, Sam Allardyce's side lost their last league meeting with City 3-1, while the Manchester outfit comfortably knocked West Ham out of the Capital One Cup at the semi-final stage back in January.

West Ham's poor form against City this season should not distract them from the task at hand. The Hammers are able to determine where the Premier League title ends up this season, in the process exacting revenge for their earlier defeats at the hands of the Citizens.

One West Ham star expected to play a crucial role on Sunday is Mark Noble. The all-action midfielder has started every league game for the east London side this term and has impressed accordingly. This is highlighted in his average WhoScored.com rating (7.14), a figure only Andy Carroll (7.3) and James Tomkins (7.16) can better of every West Ham player.

Victory over Spurs saw Noble awarded his third man of the match accolade this season, while the rating he received against Cardiff (9.1) is the only match in the campaign where he has scored higher than he did on Saturday (8.6). A similar performance to the one against Spurs at the Etihad will go a long way to West Ham ending the campaign on a high and could see City miss out on the title.

Boasting WhoScored.com strengths of 'tackling' and 'ball interception', Noble has the capability to limit the City attack from midfield, but must be on top of his game if he is to stifle the influence of the likes of Yaya Touré, Samir Nasri and David Silva. However, should he rob the opposition of possession, the 27-year-old's passing ability will aid his team when on the offensive.

Noble has developed a statistically calculated strength of 'key passes' and winning the ball back will provide him with the opportunity to create a goalscoring chance for his more attack-minded team-mates. With just the one game remaining, a final push from the West Ham players is expected, regardless of the opponent.

If the team can play as well as they did on Saturday, then there is a chance of the Hammers upsetting the odds on the final day of the campaign.

Manchester City do have the best home record in the Premier League this season, having only dropped four points, so the task facing West Ham looks tough. That said the Hammers have taken six points from their last six away games - the tenth best in the league over that span - and it will be up to players like Noble to drive the team on from midfield in their quest to secure maximum points.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.

Manchester City

Stopping Manchester City from winning on Sunday and lifting the Barclays Premier League trophy will be a tough proposition for West Ham United.

The home side are just a point away from winning the title, having scored exactly 100 goals and dropped just four points at home all season. Of the 100 goals City have scored, 61 of them have come in 18 home matches at an average of better than three per game. Some 65 of those goals have come from open play, showing City can literally carve their opponents apart when they are in the mood.

Only Chelsea, who won 1-0 there in February, and Sunderland, with a 2-2 draw in April, have come away from the Etihad with anything in 2013/14.

A list of City's strengths is lengthy - according to WhoScored.com City are 'very good' at creating scoring chances, attacking and defending set pieces, shooting, finishing, attacking down the wings and counter attacking.

City are very good going forward. They enjoy 57 per cent of possession and complete 86 per cent of their passes on average, creating 17 shots per game, six of which are usually on target. They are also extremely well-balanced, with attacks almost as likely to come from any area of the pitch.

Tactically, Manuel Pellegrini's team keep the ball and move it quickly to open up defences, controlling the game by keeping possession inside the opposition half. While some clubs thrive on having a settled starting XI, the Chilean manager has chopped and changed his team regularly, utilising his large squad.

In midweek, Pellegrini opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, with one central striker and three attacking midfielders behind him. On Sunday, he may stick with this or opt for his tried and tested 4-4-2 system, which he has used on 18 occasions this term. Both have been very fruitful when used, yielding 20 wins and just four defeats from 28 matches in which either has been used.

Personnel-wise, City will start with England international Joe Hart in goal, with a back four - most likely - of Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis and Aleksandr Kolarov. While all five are top-class players and senior internationals, City do make defensive mistakes and concede goals - 37 in 37 games so far.

France left-back Gael Clichy is an option, but Serbia international Matija Nastasic is out with a knee problem, while England players Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards are seemingly out of favour.

In midfield, Pellegrini is likely to opt for the immense Yaya Toure in front of the back four. Despite his relatively defensive starting position, Toure is a huge attacking threat with his powerful running from deep and ability to pass or shoot with either foot from any range. As a result, he has bagged a club-leading 20 goals

Alongside him, the manager opted for Spanish defensive midfielder Javi Garcia in midweek. He is a typical shield player, who never strays far from his starting position. Brazilian Fernandinho is similarly defensive-minded.

The three attacking midfielders are likely to be the gifted David Silva, France creator Samir Nasri and the versatile England international James Milner. Speedy Spain winger Jesus Navas is struggling with an ankle injury.

A superb passer of the ball, a skilful midfielder and deceptively tenacious player, Silva has ten assists and eight goals from the 32 appearances he has made. Nasri has also contributed directly to 18 goals this term, with eleven assists and seven goals to his name.

Up front, Argentina international Sergio Aguero is doubtful with a hamstring problem and missed the midweek home win over Aston Villa. With Aguero missing, Bosnian Edin Dzeko is likely to lead the line. Tall and strong, Dzeko is a good all-round striker in that he can finish chances with either foot or his head, hold the ball up and pass accurately.

Other striking options include Spaniard Alvaro Negredo, who has been described as an 'old-fashioned' centre forward due to his aerial prowess and strength, and the skilful Montenegro star Stevan Jovetic.