Premier League champions Manchester City will be hoping to continue their winning run when they take on Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.

Gameweek 22 of the 2019-20 Premier League season continues on Sunday, with the reigning champions bringing the curtains down on the latest matchday. Manchester City travel to Villa Park for their latest fixture, where they will be hosted by Aston Villa.

Aston Villa have impressed upon their return to the Premier League, with some noteworthy results and performances so far. But, a leaky defence has been the catalyst of a relegation battle, although a 2-1 win over Burnley last week lifted them out of the relegation zone. A strong collective display against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup, though, ought to have buoyed Dean Smith’s men.

Manchester City, on the other hand, have been rather disappointing in the defence of their Premier League title. They have already lost more games than they did in the entirety of last season, with a rampant Liverpool leaving them in their wake as a result. The Citizens, though, come into the game on the back of four successive wins, the latest being a 3-1 triumph against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.

Manchester City were made to work hard for all three points by Aston Villa in the reverse fixture, even though a 3-0 scoreline might not suggest so. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Aston Villa

Matt Target (R) is set to return after recovering from a hamstring injury. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Matt Target (R) is set to return after recovering from a hamstring injury. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The injury woes are starting to ease up for Dean Smith, who will have Matt Targett at his disposal following the defender’s recovery from a hamstring injury. The Aston Villa manager, though, will continue to remain without six first-team players.

Among those on the sidelines, Tom Heaton (knee), John McGinn (ankle) and Wesley (knee) are the most notable absentees, with Jed Steer (leg) and Keinan Davis (thigh) also certain to miss out. Jonathan Kodjia, meanwhile, is a major doubt due to illness and faces a race against time to make himself available for the visit of Manchester City.

In case Kodjia is unable to recover from his illness, Anwar El Ghazi, who started as a makeshift striker, will likely be deployed in the same role once again on Sunday. El Ghazi will be more of a False Nine, which will allow the wingers to drift in and overload central areas.

Jack Grealish, in particular, has derived a lot of joy from the change in formation and will once again hold the key when Aston Villa face Manchester City. On the opposite flank, Trezeguet is also a certain starter.

Targett’s return to fitness means the Englishman will feature as the left wing-back, while Frederic Guilbert picks himself on the right wing. Guillbert and Targett are likely to flank the central midfield pairing of Douglas Luiz and Conor Hourihane. Danny Drinkwater, on loan from Chelsea, is in contention to feature later on in the game for his debut.

At the back, there is no looking past the trio of Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Kortney Hause. Mings will be the leader in defence for Aston Villa, looking to keep a check on Sergio Aguero. Finally, with Heaton and Steer out injured, Orjan Nyland is an automatic pick in goal.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Nyland; Konsa, Mings, Hause; Guillbert, Luiz, Hourihane, Targett; Trezeguet, El Ghazi, Grealish

Aston Villa

Manchester City

Unlike his counterpart in the Aston Villa dugout, Pep Guardiola barely has any pressing fitness troubles hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to take on Aston Villa. On Sunday, the Manchester City manager will be without two first-team players, namely Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane.

Among the duo, the absence of Laporte has been felt the most dearly, but the Frenchman is inching closer to his return, and will resume full training next week. Sane, meanwhile, is some way off regaining fitness. Meanwhile, in more good news, Ederson is set to return for his first appearance of 2020 after serving the suspension he accrued after being sent off against Wolves.

The defensive line is likely to see one shuffle, with John Stones coming into the side in place of Nicolas Otamendi, with Fernandinho his partner at the heart of the Manchester City defence. Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy will continue as the full-back pairing once again.

Up ahead in midfield, David Silva is expected to return, providing Ilkay Gundogan a breather after his recent excursions. Silva will have Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri for company in the middle of the park. Rodri will sit at the base of the three-man unit, with Silva and De Bruyne providing the creative impetus.

Upfront, Sergio Aguero should return to lead the line for Manchester City after being rested in the Carabao Cup. Raheem Sterling is a certain starter on the left flank, with the in-form Riyad Mahrez expected to get the nod over Bernardo Silva on the opposite flank.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, David Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling


Betting Odds


1. Manchester City Asian Handicap -2.0 @ 1.675

Outside Chance:

1. Raheem Sterling to score 2 or more @ 3.40

Key Stats

  • Aston Villa have lost nine of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Manchester City. The Villans’ only victory in that run came back in September 2013.
  • Aston Villa have won only three of their 49 Premier League matches against the reigning champions (D14 L32), losing each of their last 11 in a row.
  • Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City have lost three of their four Premier League away games in January, winning only against Huddersfield last year (3-0).
  • Manchester City have conceded 14 goals in their 10 away games in the Premier League this season, three more than they did in 19 games on the road last term. They have conceded 3+ goals in three different away league games this season, as many as they had in their first three seasons under Pep Guardiola combined.
  • Sergio Aguero has scored six goals in his last four Premier League starts against Aston Villa. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, no player has more goals against newly-promoted teams than Aguero (31); the Argentinian has 174 goals in total in the competition, one behind Thierry Henry on 175, who is the top-scoring non-English player in Premier League history.

Player to Watch

Jack Grealish

The man to inspire an unlikely upset? (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

The man to inspire an unlikely upset? (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

The leader on the pitch for Aston Villa. The Villans’ talisman. Jack Grealish has donned many-a-hat over the course of the season so far and it goes without saying that Villa look towards the English midfielder for inspiration in just about every game.

Grealish is already enjoying the most productive season of his career till date, having netted six goals in the Premier League so far. The 24-year-old will also hold the key when it comes to chance creation. So, it is rather obvious that Grealish will be the go-to man for Dean Smith and his display will be crucial if Aston Villa are to spring a surprise on Manchester City.


Aston Villa 1-4 Manchester City

It is irrefutable that Aston Villa are a side that are not to be taken lightly by any club. After all, they ran Liverpool really close and troubled Manchester City themselves in the reverse fixture. Having said that, the hosts are missing plenty of key players all across the pitch, and the pressure on Jack Grealish is more intense than ever before.

Add to it the fact that Manchester City are in the middle of one of their umpteen resurgent runs this season, and with no more margin for error, one can expect Pep Guardiola’s men to be ruthless. The Hard Tackle, therefore, predicts a 4-1 win for the reigning Premier League champions, with Grealish perhaps, pulling a goal back for Aston Villa.

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