Manchester City will be aiming to move to the top of the Premier League standings when they face off against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium this midweek.
Football in England continues to come at a breakneck speed as teams in the Premier League play out the extended Matchweek 19 over the week. Two matches take place on Wednesday night, with things kicking off at the Etihad Stadium where title hopefuls Manchester City face off against Aston Villa.
After a slow start to their campaign, Manchester City have started to find their groove and have put together a fifteen-game unbeaten run across all competitions. With five wins in five in the league, including a 4-0 triumph over Crystal Palace this past weekend, Pep Guardiola’s side are second in the table, just two points below leaders Manchester United.
A win on Wednesday, could thus, send the Cityzens into the top spot in the standings, even though it could be temporary with their neighbours playing Fulham later on the same night. However, things might not be that straightforward against an Aston Villa side that has been performing admirably this term.
Dean Smith’s side have made a fine start to the season and even though they are 11th heading into Wednesday’s game, they have three games in hand over almost each of the team above them. This will, however, be the Villans first game in over a week after their last two Premier League games against Tottenham and Everton were postponed due to a Covid-19 breakout in the squad.
The corresponding fixture last season had ended in a 3-0 win for Manchester City, with goals coming from Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan. Ahead of their latest meeting this midweek at the Etihad Stadium, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Sergio Aguero, who has recently been linked with Barcelona and PSG, will be unavailable again as he remains in self-isolation. Aymeric Laporte is back in training, but will not be ready for Wednesday’s game while both Eric Garcia and Nathan Ake also remain doubts for Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola is expected to make a few changes to the side that took the field against Crystal Palace at the weekend. No alterations will be made in goal though, with Ederson Moraes the undisputed starter. The centre-back pairing of John Stones and Ruben Dias has been performing exceptionally and should not be tinkered with either.
At right-back, Joao Cancelo is expected to come into the side at the expense of Kyle Walker while Benjamin Mendy gets the nod on the left in place of Oleksandr Zinchenko. The former will alternate between pushing forward down the flank and moving into central midfield depending on the situation while Mendy will look to power down the left-wing and hit crosses into the box.
Fernandinho, having started against Palace, will make way for Rodri on Wednesday evening. The Spaniard will likely be tasked with keeping a check on the output of Jack Grealish, with support coming from Ilkay Gundogan, who could rein in his attacking instincts to provide additional protection in the centre. Kevin De Bruyne will be the creator-in-chief for the hosts.
Phil Foden, who made a substitute appearance at the weekend, should return to the starting XI against Villa. The England international should slot in on the left flank, with Raheem Sterling moving to the right-wing. Gabriel Jesus will provide the focal point for the City attack in Aguero’s absence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
This will be the first time the Aston Villa senior team will be taking the field in over two weeks, considering that they had fielded their Under-18 and Under-23 players for their last game against Liverpool in the FA Cup. Having shut down their training ground due to the Covid outbreak, players returned to training only on Sunday.
So, it remains to be seen how Dean Smith’s team selection shapes up, depending on the personnel he has available, although a large number of starters were pictured training on Monday. Trezeguet was one of the players who confirmed that he tested positive and might not be rushed back. Wesley remains unavailable as well, as he recovers from a knee injury.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 19, 2021
Emiliano Martinez, who has been a revelation in goal since making the move from Arsenal in the summer, should start against Manchester City. Matty Cash and Matt Targett will be the two full-backs for the visitors. The former, in particular, will pose a threat with his overlapping runs and ability to hit dangerous crosses. Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa should be the two centre-halves.
Former Manchester City man, Douglas Luiz and John McGinn are certain starters in the midfield double pivot for Aston Villa. The duo will look to curtail the threat posed by Kevin De Bruyne while also looking to spark quick transitions in the centre of the park.
Ross Barkley, who is back in training, is likely to be eased back into action, meaning captain Jack Grealish continues as the No. 10, although he will have the license to drift across the pitch to make things happen. Anwar El Ghazi and Bertrand Traore should occupy the wide areas, with summer signing Ollie Watkins spearheading the attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Traore, Grealish, El Ghazi; Watkins
1. Aston Villa Asian Handicap +2.0 @
1. Under 2.5 Match Goals @ 2.62
- Manchester City have not lost any of their last nine meetings against Aston Villa across all competitions. During this run, the Mancunians have kept six clean sheets and scored 28 goals.
- Aston Villa have won five of their eight away games in the Premier League this season (D1 L2), as many as they had in their previous 49 fixtures on the road in the competition.
- Manchester City have scored at least 3 goals in 9 of their last 10 home matches against Aston Villa in all competitions.
- Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has lost on all the three occasions he has come up against Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
- Manchester City have kept a clean sheet in 7 of their last 9 matches in the Premier League.
Player to Watch
Man City's record with John Stones on the pitch this season:
⬢ 16 games
⬢ 15 wins
⬢ 2 goals conceded
⬢ 0 defeats
And he's scored three goals himself to cancel out the ones they let in. 😉 pic.twitter.com/FXFZ3d39gk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 18, 2021
It wasn’t long ago when the future of John Stones at Manchester City was being called into question after a couple of difficult seasons. However, over the past month or so, the former Everton man has found his form again and is playing some of his finest football in quite a long time.
Stones’ defensive partnership with Ruben Dias at the heart of the backline has been brilliant, with City winning 9 of the 10 games the pair have started together in all competitions, conceding just once. At the same time, Stones has also been making vital contributions in attack, scoring in the Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester United, which was followed by a brace against Crystal Palace.
On Wednesday though, Stones will have his work cut out against Ollie Watkins who can make life difficult with his pace and physicality. It will be critical for City that the 26-year-old continues in his rich vein of form if they are to extend their impressive run of results.
Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa
Aston Villa will be returning to action after a brief layoff and the lack of proper training and preparation is likely to affect their performance on Wednesday. Considering that Manchester City are hitting top gear, the Villans couldn’t have faced them at a worse time and despite all the promise they have shown this term, Dean Smith’s men are likely to come short against Pep Guardiola & co.