Manchester City will return from the international break with matches against French heavyweights and a top-four Premier League side in their first week.
West Ham are something of a surprise package, with fair doubts over whether they can maintain their superb form and finish above clubs with much bigger budgets and expectations than them. It would be unfair though to cast David Moyes and his team as rank outsiders given they have been one of the best-performing teams in the league for some time now.
Having lost last month at the London Stadium to see his domination of the Carabao Cup end after four successive trophies, Pep Guardiola needs no reminder of how tricky West Ham will be to break down when they visit the Etihad in the league on November 28. With the league standings delicately placed, as strange as it may sound there is an argument for that game to be prioritised over Paris Saint-Germain four days earlier.
The importance of making PSG the focus of the week is obvious: win the game and City will be confirmed as group winners with a game to spare – not a bad return at all given they lost in the reverse fixture.
Guardiola has a special affinity with the Champions League and will want to give his team the best chance possible to have success in it, which includes being seeded for the last-16 draw. It would be nice for the manager to use the trip to RB Leipzig in December to rotate his squad ahead of a home game with Wolves the following weekend.
However, at the minute West Ham at home looks like a tougher task than Wolves at home and there is also that fact that there is almost zero chance of the City manager putting out a team against PSG that wouldn’t be competitive.
As long as they avoid defeat to Mauricio Pochettino’s men – and Guardiola has never presided over a group stage loss at the Etihad – they would still have control of the group heading into that final game, even if Leipzig away would be a tougher fixture on paper than Club Brugge at home for PSG.
With City knowing more than most how important momentum is in the Premier League and how one bad or good result compared to your rivals can provide that key advantage, the Blues will not want to give anything up while the table looks so finely poised.
Nothing will be admitted publicly of course – the more important game is always the next one as they say, even when it isn’t true – but given the state of play in both competitions City would be forgiven for prioritising West Ham over PSG