Back in February, Pep Guardiola volunteered the names of two West Ham players who he felt were the threats to his Manchester City team’s fabulous unbeaten run.

Name-checking Michail Antonio was no great surprise - the big striker is the kind of player that usually presents the Blues with a problem, allying technique and finishing ability to strength and size.

But it was the other name Guardiola mentioned, unprompted, that had the assorted football scribes raising an eyebrow.

Asked about the Hammers’ improvement under David Moyes, the City boss replied: “What I saw is the rhythm increased a lot on previous seasons. They have fantastic players like Declan Rice. I am a big admirer of him and Antonio is always a headache for his movements."

Given that Fernandinho is likely to end his brilliant City career at the end of this season, a move for Rice would be a distinct possibility next summer.

The only riders to that are that signing a striker remains City’s priority, and the emergence of the highly-rated Romeo Lavia from the academy system - he made his first-team debut against Wycombe in September.

Lavia is one of a handful of academy starlets who could save the club a fortune in transfer fees, but a holding midfielder is a crucial and highly-specialised role.

Whether 17-year-old Lavia - he turns 18 in January - is mature enough to make the step up as Rodri’s understudy next summer remains shrouded in doubt.

It could have just come too early for him, and with that position, and striker, the two places City need to strengthen next year, Rice is an obvious candidate.

The player has turned down two big West Ham contract offers, and with his current contract entering its final two years next summer, City are watching the situation carefully, along with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Rice fits the bill perfectly for Guardiola - good technique, strong, positionally sound, and he has shown in his performances for England that he can step up a level and still shine.

The 22-year-old faces a serious test of his credentials against a City side that is in full flow at the moment, when the Hammers rock up at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.

If Moyes’ team are to resume their excellent start to the season by getting a result at City, after slipping up at Wolves last week, Rice will be a key figure.

The Blues do their best creative work in the areas Rice patrols for his club, and they have won this fixture in the last five seasons, although by never more than a two-goal margin.

Rice was rested for the Hammers’ penalty shoot-out win over City in the Carabao Cup last month, when both teams left out key players.

Among the West Ham players to whom Moyes gave a break, were Rice and Antonio.

Depending on the availability of Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, the Blues are likely to make seven changes to the team that drew 0-0 that night in the London Stadium.