Villa Park, Birmingham
September 28, 2013; 15:00 BST
Aston Villa host Manchester City at the Villa Park on Saturday, as both teams look to maintain momentum after crucial wins last weekend. The Lions made a good start to their league campaign with an away victory against Arsenal, but they followed it up with three defeats in a row. The fixture list hasn’t been kind to them though – along with the Gunners, they have faced Chelsea and Liverpool in their opening five matches so far. Hence the six points collected in the league is not as bad as it seems. In fact their performances have been better than what their league position suggest.
Villa are coming into this game on the back of 4-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham in the League Cup, but in a way early exit from the tournament could help Paul Lambert and his men concentrate on the league as he has a fairly thing squad at his disposal. Villa grabbed a crucial win against Norwich in their last league match as substitute Libor Kozak’s goal in the first half turned out to be the winner.
Manchester City on the other hand have made a good start to their league campaign and have recovered well from the 3-2 defeat they suffered at the hands of newly promoted side Cardiff early on in the season. City have won four of their last five matches including a 5-0 victory over Wigan in the League Cup in their last game.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men are high on confidence at the moment and currently occupy third spot in the league table – two points behind the leaders. Last weekend they put out an impressive display against the reigning Premier League champions and arch rivals Manchester United. A brace from Sergio Aguero helped them secure a memorable 4-1 win over their neighbours. It was a statement of intent made by the Citizens.
Manchester City have had the upper hand over Aston Villa in recent times. The Sky Blues have won five of their last six meetings between these two sides. Aston Villa’s last victory over City came in the League Cup fixture last year. At Villa Park, it has been fairly even between these two sides though. Both teams have won two each in the last five meetings at this ground, but Villa’s last victory over Manchester City in the league came way back in 2011 when Darren Bent scored the winner.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Aston Villa paid a great price for their victory over Norwich last weekend as Christian Benteke pulled up with an injury in the first half. The Belgium international is expected to be out for at least a month with his groin injury. Apart from Benteke, Paul Lambert is also without Jores Okore, Charles N’Zogbia and Gardner. There are also doubts about the fitness of Agbonlahor and Westwood, although both are expected to be fit for this game after undergoing a late test.
Aston Villa are likely to make only two changes to the side that was fielded against Norwich last weekend. Libor Kozak will replace the injured Benteke upfront, while Matthew Lowton will come into the side in place of Leandro Bacuna at the right back.
Paul Lambert has used interesting tactics this season. Interestingly, he has been criticized by both Jose Mourinho and Andres Villas Boas for using long balls tactics. Stats do support these claims as Villa have played the third highest number of long balls in the league – behind West Ham and Crystal Palace. But Paul Lambert was simply asking his team to play to their strength. These were far from long hopeful kicks down the pitch, Villa were using their greatest weapon – Christian Benteke. The big striker is perhaps the strongest player in the air in the league at the moment and his flick-ons helped them in launching quick counter attacks. It was a direct and effective approach.
Lambert asked his team to sit deep and when they regain possession, their first aim is to find Benteke with a long ball. The Belgium international would then use his aerial prowess to find one of Agbonlahor or Weimann, who would then use their tremendous pace to get behind the defence. Simple, direct and effective.
But now with the absence of Benteke, Paul Lambert might have to change his tactics. It will be interesting to see how Libor Kozak adapts to this role in place of Benteke.
Probable Starting XI [4-3-3]: Guzan (GK); Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Luna; Tonev, Delph, Ahmadi; Agbonlahor, Kozak, Weimann
Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t have any new injury concerns ahead of this fixture. City are still without Jack Rodwell, David Silva and Martin Demichelis. The Spaniard is expected to return in the first week of October, while Demichelis is still a month away from regaining full fitness.
Pellegrini is unlikely to make any changes to the side that was fielded against Manchester United. Which means the likes of Jovetic, who scored a brace against Wigan, and Gael Clichy will drop back to the bench in this game after appearing in the midweek League cup match.
The thing that stood out most in Manchester City demolition job against Manchester United was the hunger and desire of the players. They pressed excellently when they lost the possession and hunted down United players as a team. Negredo did a brilliant job in holding up play up front, while the likes of Nasri and Aguero created havoc with their movement. Kolarov was another stand out performer in the last game and provided a brilliant outlet on the wings down the left. He was also helped by the fact that Nasri’s movement in field created space for him down the line.
But City will face a different type of opponent in Aston Villa this weekend. Villa are a young team and they work extremely hard off the ball as well, which means it will be City who will be under pressure while they are on possession – much like what they did to United. Also with Villa holding a deep defensive line and their wingers dropping back to help out their full backs, the likes of Kolarov and Zabaleta won’t as much space as they did against United.
This will be a game where Manchester City will be allowed to dominate possession, but they will have to be patient with it. The likes of Nasri and Aguero will be crucial once again, as they can find create space for the others. City will also have to be careful about handling Agbonlahor and Weimann. Fernandinho will have a crucial role in preventing Villa’s counter attack and the midfield will also have to cover the space down the wide areas as the full backs move forward.
Probable Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Hart (GK); Zabaleta, Nastasic, Kompany, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Toure; Navas, Aguero, Nasri; Negredo
- The Villans have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 13 Barclays Premier League home games.
- Along with bottom club Sunderland, Aston Villa are the only team yet to win a single point at home this season.
- Man City have kept three clean sheets in their last four Premier League away games.
- Aston Villa have lost their last three Premier League home games and have suffered nine defeats in their last 13 at Villa Park.
- Manchester City have won six of their last seven Barclays Premier League encounters with Aston Villa.
Player To Watch Out For
Samir Nasri (Manchester City)
The Frenchman made only his second start in the league in the game against Manchester United, but he continues to replicate the performance he put up in that game, Mancini will find it hard to remove him from the side. Nasri was at his absolute best against United and created havoc down the left. His off the ball movement, telling passes, flicks and tricks was too much for the opponent to handle. While Sergio Aguero took away the headlines, Nasri was played in important part in all of City’s goal in that game.
Aston Villa 1-3 Manchester City
Aston Villa will come out hard at Manchester City and will make it hard for them to dominate this match. Villa will miss Benteke upfront, but they are likely to score on the break. Manchester City’s superior quality will eventually come through and they should win this game by a comfortable margin in the end.