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Men's First Team

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Zaba's return and will December be magic?

OLD PALS ACT: Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta exchange pre-match greetings

OLD PALS ACT: Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta exchange pre-match greetings

The return of Pablo Zabaleta, Ferna, Kompany and Leroy on suspension tightropes and nine games in December - here are five talking points to mull over ahead of Sunday's game...

No Hart for Hammers

Joe Hart won’t be in action for West Ham this Sunday.

Premier League rules forbid a player playing against

 

LAST TIME: Joe's last appearance for the Blues

 

their parent club and so Joe’s homecoming will have to wait until another day.

The England keeper, on a season-long loan with the Hammers, has never played competitively against the Blues, though did feature in the 3-0 friendly defeat in Iceland during the summer.

No doubt there will stilll be one or two Hart songs from the City fans anyway!

Zaba’s return

While Hart won’t play, Pablo Zabaleta almost certainly will – the first time he has returned to the Etihad since leaving the Blues last May.

Zaba’s reception is likely to make the hairs on a few necks stand up on Sunday, and his anthem is likely to echo around the stadium throughout the game as City fans get another chance to air an old favourite.

 

_Pablo Zabaleta bids farewell to the City fans

 

It will look odd seeing a Club legend in opposition colours and no matter what happens, he will always be welcomed back with open arms.

Ferna, Kompany and Sane on brink

Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany and Leroy Sane are just one caution away from being suspended for next weekend’s Manchester derby.

Whether that will play on Pep Guardiola’s mind or not is unknown, but the Blues will want to go to Old Trafford with the strongest starting XI possible.

 

SIX OF THE BEST: Leroy Sane wheels away in triumph after making it 6-2

 

Sane missed the midweek clash with Southampton with illness, but Ferna is yet to miss a Premier League game this campaign and Kompany has only recently returned from injury.

It’s hard to know if a suspension possibility plays in players’ minds and it will be fascinating to see what the City boss decides to do ahead of the Hammers clash.

City’s ‘sticky period’ to end?

Yep. The past three games could be considered a bit of a sticky patch for City given what went before.

Three games, three wins – calling it a blip certainly doesn’t seem right – yet City laboured against Feyenoord, were pushed hard by Huddersfield Town and were frustrated against Southampton.

 

BREAKTHROUGH: Nicolas Otamendi celebrates as Virgil van Dijk's own goal hands City the lead.

Highlights

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Man City v Southampton: Brief highlights

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The difference, of course, was Raheem Sterling who scored a late winner in each match – otherwise, the Blues might have had three draws on the bounce and have gone into Sunday’s game only four points clear at the top.

Much was made of the celebrations against the Saints at the end of the game and how much it meant to everyone connected to the Club, but perhaps the reason was a realisation that this team can grind out a win no matter what the situation.

Manchester United and Chelsea have made a habit out of ‘winning ugly’ in years gone by and while the last three games haven’t been ugly exactly,  they have been harder victories than many of the games this campaign.

Rotations on cards for ‘mega month’?

City play NINE games in December and it’s fair to say Pep has been warning this will be a testing period for his side.

Nine matches in 28 days equates to (all-but) a game every three days. It is a gruelling schedule that the Blues will be doing all in their power to keep players fresh and ready for the next game.

Out of those nine matches, six will be away from home with a trip to Ukraine wedged in and visits to London, Newcastle and South Wales.

 

TOUGH DECISIONS: December will test the Blues' squad

 

Every game is important, but the stand-out fixtures are United away and Spurs at home – two games that will test City to the max.

When possible, players like Bernardo, Yaya Toure, Ilkay Gundogan, Danilo, Eliaquim Mangala,  Phil Foden. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Brahim Diaz will all get game time at some stage as Pep looks to rest his more regular starters.

City will look to emerge from December still maintaining a healthy lead at the top of the table and with minimal injuries to nurse – do that and everything wil be possible in the New Year.

Media Watch

Man City gossip: Defender links and Pep skills

SPECULATION: Potential January targets are being discussed in the media

Welcome to the first Media Watch of December, which promises to be an extremely busy month with nine matches as well as the inevitable transfer gossip ahead of the January window.

The way City are playing the more matches the merrier – Vincent Kompany has been speaking about just what boss Pep Guardiola does behind the scenes to produce such sensational football.

Men's First Team

What TV channel is Man City v West Ham on?

LETHAL WEAPONS: Goalscorers Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling celebrate City's second

Find out how you can watch Manchester City v West Ham on TV, wherever you are in the world

City welcome the Hammers to the Etihad on Sunday 3 December for a 4pm (GMT) kick off.

Match Preview

Man City v West Ham: Kick off time, TV & team news