Manchester City facing tough test at West Ham United

football15 September 2023 18:57| © AFP
Matheus Nunes © Gallo Images

Matheus Nunes could make his Manchester City debut on Saturday when the three-time defending champions make the tricky trip to West Ham United.

City (4-0-0, 12 points) completed its bid for Nunes from Wolverhampton Wanderers before the close of the league's primary transfer window earlier this month, after he was one of the few constants for the Midlands side last season.

The 25-year-old Portuguese midfielder is the most natural fit in a box-to-box role vacated by former City captain Ilkay Gundogan after the German star's free offseason transfer to Barcelona.

But Nunes could provide depth elsewhere, too, as City deals with the long-term injury absence of playmaker Kevin De Bruyne.

"He can play in multiple positions," City manager Pep Guardiola said Friday. "He has special qualities which are so difficult to find. ... In time, he will learn to be more precise in the simple things, the first touch and pass. The way we train and the dynamic we have, he will get it. ... He has qualities a manager can't dream of."

City's only blemishes have come in two largely ceremonial matches, a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the Community Shield before the season and another tie by the same score against Sevilla in the Uefa European Super Cup.

A critic could say Guardiola's men have yet to be tested while playing only one of last year's top six finishers so far.

West Ham (3-0-1, 10 points) are one of four teams two points off the pace following the international break, with manager David Moyes' side winning the last three following a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth to open the season.

Even more encouragingly, two of those victories have come away from London Stadium, a reversal from last season when the club's away form dumped the Hammers into a relegation fight.

The biggest difference hasn't been performance so much as end product, with six goals on their travels and nine overall. Jarrod Bowen leads the squad with three goals, and James Ward-Prowse has provided a team-leading three assists since his arrival from relegated Southampton.

"We've had three of our four games away, which is a really tough call. Quite a few have had three at home, so for us to get those points from three away games is really good," Moyes said. "We've scored goals and we look as if we are going to score goals, and if that continues, we will have a great chance of picking up points."