MANCHESTER, September 18- Premier League leaders Manchester City hope Sergio Aguero’s early return from injury can spark an immediate response after their latest Champions League meltdown.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side were buoyant after winning their opening five Premier League matches, and so it was all the more surprising that on Tuesday they lost 2-1 at home to a Juventus side who have started the Serie A season poorly.
The task now for City is to pick up their domestic momentum again, by claiming a 12th successive Premier League victory.
However, standing in their way are a West Ham side who have collected away wins over Arsenal and Liverpool already this season.
With that kind of record on their travels, Slaven Bilic’s side are not to be taken lightly.
Amid their midweek European gloom, one piece of good news for City has been the quick recovery of Sergio Aguero from a knee injury.
The Argentina striker, forced off during the first half of last Saturday’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace, was initially ruled out of the Juventus game, only to appear for the last seven minutes as a substitute.
“It was a risk to use him,” Pellegrini said. “I tried not to because if he got a kick in the same place, it could take him more days to recover.
“Fortunately he did not have any problems and I hope he will be fit for Saturday.”
In defence, City will check on the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, who has been instrumental in the clean sheets they have kept in each of their five league games so far.
Kompany came off with a calf injury 15 minutes from the end of the defeat against Juventus, although he suggested that was nothing to worry about.
“It’s not serious,” he said. “I know my body.”
– True tests –
That suggests Kompany will retain his ever-present record alongside Eliaquim Mangala in the centre of defence, leaving recent signing Nicolas Otamendi to wait for his first City start.
Pellegrini’s side are four points clear at the top of the table, but as far as midfielder Fernandinho is concerned, the true tests are another three months away yet.
“I always say the Premier League is complicated, especially in December,” Fernandinho said.
“It can sometimes be decided by who fights for the title most in December as there are a lot of games and sometimes teams have to change players.
“If you don’t have the players to change then it can become complicated.
“In December, we will see who is winning the title race as I believe this will give a strong indication to what will happen at the end.”
West Ham’s victory over Newcastle moved Bilic’s side up to fifth after they finally registered their first home league win of the season.
The Hammers have demonstrated a frustrating inconsistency so far, with their impressive away wins balanced by unexpected home defeats against Bournemouth and Leicester.
Bilic insists his side’s form away from Upton Park means it will not be a shock if they take something from this game.
“City are cruising in the early stages and already have a gap which is hard to get after five games,” Bilic said.
“But it wouldn’t be a shock as we already have two out of two away wins. We know what we need to do to have a chance.
“They are the favourites of course but I am expecting us to have a good game and if that is the case we will have chances.”
Bilic has more options available to him now with striker Andy Carroll making his first appearance in seven months as a late substitute against Newcastle and deadline-day arrivals Nikica Jelavic and Michail Antonio yet to make their debuts.
Midfielder Pedro Obiang should be in contention after an ankle injury but centre-back Angelo Ogbonna is out with a hamstring problem.