Two divisions might separate these two outfits in the football pyramid, but there’s no doubt that Sunday’s clash could be extremely tasty indeed when you consider the starts that both of these clubs have made to the campaign. Bristol City have been by far and away the best side in League One, whereas West Ham have taken the top flight by storm and are challenging for European qualification.
It was only a few years ago that these sides were competing in the upper regions of the Championship, but since then Bristol City have taken a massive fall from grace. They’ve been in the depths of League One for a couple of years now although finally, it looks as though they are about to return to English football’s second tier. There’s no doubt that they have invested heavily in a promotion push, but with six points separating them from 3rd place it looks as though all of that expenditure could be worthwhile. If we look to their recent form, the club have suffered just one defeat in their last twelve games. Having also won their last four, and also won their last six at Ashton Gate, some fans might have every reason to hold some confidence ahead of this cup encounter.
Unfortunately for City, their opponents have also experienced a wonderful campaign. Having battled against the drop last term, this season has been a completely different type of year for the Hammers who find themselves in 7th spot in the Premier League – just three points behind 5th place. Furthermore, their form through January is encouraging. They’ve remained unbeaten from the start of 2015, while they thrashed Hull in 3-0 style in their most recent game. Additionally, they have become somewhat away specialists, losing just one of their last five games on the road.
As for team news, Bristol City approach this game with a couple of concerns as Kieran Agard and Aaron Wilbraham both struggle for fitness. Both have not featured since December and considering City’s promotion push, it’s unlikely that Steve Cotterill will risk either. It gets worse for the Robins in other areas as well, with James Tavernier set to miss out due to ineligibility. West Ham aren’t without their problems though, with Diafra Sakho and James Collins both on the treatment table. Another absentee comes in the form of Cheikhou Kouyate, who is currently representing his country in the African Nations Cup.
Bristol City have been on fire this term, but they are up against a side who have performed even better two divisions higher. When you also consider West Ham’s away record over recent months, the only prediction we can devise is a 3-1 win for the Hammers this Sunday.