An in-form Manchester City side take on a revitalised Aston Villa outfit flying high under new manager Steven Gerrard this midweek.
Two wins in two for Steven Gerrard as the new Aston Villa boss have certainly brought back a sense of optimism among fans. The current mood has been non-existent at Villa Park this season despite the board and former manager Dean Smith getting in several interesting signings through the door in the summer.
While their bad start to the season looks rectified under Gerrard, the new signings are yet to make their mark. Yet it increasingly seems like the ex-Rangers’ boss is the man to get the best out of them. He has a big test on up next, though, as Manchester City come to Villa Park, hoping to assert their dominance.
Villa visited a tricky Crystal Palace, who were unbeaten in seven games, on the previous matchday. Yet, Gerrard outclassed his former midfield rival Patrick Vieira and secured a comfortable victory. Man City will certainly present a much more difficult challenge than the Eagles, and a win here would certainly boost the confidence within the team.
Manchester City continued their dominance against West Ham United over the weekend. Amid difficult playing conditions, Pep Guardiola’s men were comfortable winners at the Etihad. Goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho set the tone for three points, although conceding from a Manuel Lanzini side robbed the team of a clean sheet.
The top half of the Premier League table gets interesting with every passing week. Manchester City and Liverpool closed in on Chelsea, who could only manage a draw against Manchester United. There’s quite the race brewing at the top of the pile, although Guardiola has to manoeuvre some tricky fixtures such as the Villa clash.
While the reigning champions are expected to win these matches, Villa might offer them a stern test under Gerrard. This clash certainly has plenty riding for both sides, as Man City aim to keep the pressure at the top while Villa seek a relevant place on the league table.
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— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) November 30, 2021
Gerrard kept his team’s shape intact for the first two games, although he might ponder formation changes for this clash. The threat of Manchester City calls for more control in midfield, which could lead to the inclusion of Douglas Luiz in his lineup. However, Marvelous Nakamba’s terrific performances might tempt Gerrard to continue to play with the same set of players and keep Luiz on the bench for the second game running.
In terms of injuries, Danny Ings, Bertrand Traore and Trezeguet remain out, while there are no concerns with suspensions. Gerrard could make a single change from the team that started against Palace from the look of things.
Emiliano Buendia could be the man to come into the lineup and replace Leon Bailey in the front three. The idea for including the Argentine might have stemmed from the need to retain the ball more while bringing in creativity from possession. Bailey likes to run and is a more direct option, preferably a reliable substitute here.
The rest of the side is set to remain the same, including the back four. Gerrard may have been tempted to field a back-three to contain the rampant Man City attackers, although it seems he might prefer to mirror their opponents and keep attacking the ball.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba, Ramsey; Buendia, Watkins, Young
If not for fitness concerns, this game might have focused more on Jack Grealish’s return to Villa Park after his sensational summer transfer. The England international did return to training this week, although it might not be enough to feature against his old side.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 30, 2021
Similarly, Kevin De Bruyne might also miss out despite recovering from a bout of Covid-19, which caused him to miss the last three games in all competitions. Unlike Grealish, De Bruyne is yet to train with the group, which renders him unfit for the Villa clash.
Ferran Torres is another player missing from action as he recovers from his foot injury. Key defender Aymeric Laporte will be absent after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season, triggering an automatic one-match suspension.
John Stones should replace the Spaniard in the side and partner Ruben Dias in central defence. Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker will be starting as full-backs. Fernandinho might have scored a good goal against the Hammers, but Rodri will again be preferred at the base of the midfield.
Phil Foden is a candidate to make a return, although Guardiola will be wary of using him just yet, considering a busy festive schedule is on the horizon. Raheem Sterling could start once more on the left side, while Riyad Mahrez should continue on the opposite flank with Gabriel Jesus leading the line for Man City.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling
- Manchester City have won their last seven games against Aston Villa in all competitions.
- Manchester City have scored at least two goals in their last seven matches against Aston Villa in all competitions.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in 18 of their last 20 away games in the Premier League.
- Manchester City have scored at least two goals in six of their last seven games against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
- Aston Villa have lost 12 of their last 14 games against Manchester City in the Premier League.
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The England international has been allowed to start a few games after being dropped to the bench for most parts this season. With two goals to show from those matches, Sterling has put himself in a competitive position to feature more regularly ahead of the busy festive schedule.
The return of Jack Grealish and Phil Foden might put Sterling in a tricky situation again, although a good showing against Villa should force him into Guardiola’s plans for the season once more. He desperately needs to score or assist against their midweek opponents or might find himself warming the bench when the other attackers return.
Aston Villa 0-2 Manchester City
Villa have good attackers on their side, although they might find it hard going against Manchester City’s airtight defence. Manchester City have been potent in attack despite the absence of a viable no.9 in their ranks. The fluidity and unpredictable attacking movements will make life hard for the Villa defence. Expect a comfortable victory for Guardiola’s side, bringing an end to Gerrard’s winning start to life a Villa park.