Aston Villa vs Manchester City
Venue: Villa Park
Referee: Peter Bankes
TV: Sky Sports
Aston Villa host Manchester City in a game surrounded by off-field drama and controversy. Chelsea ended City’s quadruple hopes at the weekend as they were dumped out of the FA Cup, followed by the news of their commitment to the newly formed ‘European Super League’ which has since been binned off.
Aston Villa head into the tie off the back of a long break away from competitive football. Last time out, Villa lost in the dying minutes to Liverpool, despite putting up a valiant performance. Trent Alexander Arnold’s late strike broke Villa hearts and left the Midland’s side floundering in mid-table obscurity, eight points away from their European target with only eight games to play. With a tough fixture list ahead, their recent form could derail their season, which started so brightly.
It may not be all doom and gloom at Villa Park, however, as they have an opportunity to capitalise upon a Manchester City side seemingly shaken by the pressure put upon them in this late stage of the season. Already dropping out of the FA Cup and losing to a 10-man Leeds side in the league, this is a better time than any to face the league leaders, as their confidence will have no doubt taken a hit. Add the injury of Kevin De Bruyne to the equation, and Villa could be in with a change this Wednesday.
Villa will need to respond well if they are to seize the opportunity presented to them. Without Grealish, Villa has looked shaky at best, with flashes of brilliance followed by periods of worryingly poor football. Smith must find a way to get his Villa side to perform in the absence of their boyhood fan turned captain, should his injury continue to cause him setbacks, or he decides to leave in the summer. With Egypt international Trezeguet also injured for the season, Villa could introduce a few of their mightily impressive U23 stars, who shined earlier on in the season against Liverpool.
It’s a strange time for the travelling side, as City enters the game off the back of one of their best seasons to date and in poor form with low confidence. The Citizens have finally reached a Champions League semi-final and look to have secured the Premier League with games to spare. However, as we have seen before, the Manchester side is starting to show cracks and could well crumble under the pressure as they have done many times. City will want to improve upon their last league result, a 2-1 defeat at home to a 10 man Leeds. Another defeat to a mid-table side would be the worst setup to City’s League Cup final only four days later.
The main talking point surrounding Manchester City is their involvement with the recently announced ‘European Super League’, planned to be formed as soon as possible. With the traditional big six ‘committed’ to the league, the Premier League has signalled their intent to ban the clubs involved from all domestic competitions, which would have significant financial and competitive repercussions within England. With fans, pundits, players and the wider football community seemingly unified in their opposition of the league’s formation, what we can expect for sure is months filled with legal and moral turmoil.
Manchester City have since walked away from the proposals and assuming the Premier League will continue as planned for the foreseeable future, we can expect City to play a weakened line-up against Villa this weekend. The Citizens have the league all but wrapped up, and now their chances of the quadruple are over; Guardiola must secure the League Cup and Champions League to make good on the Mancherster side’s impressive 20/21 campaign. With Villa struggling in recent weeks and without their captain Jack Grealish, City should be on for a routine victory at Villa Park.
Jack Grealish and Trezeguet will be out with injury. Morgan Sanson could return to the starting XI. Wesley and Kourtney Hause are close to a return but will not feature until late this season.
Kevin De Bruyne will be assessed following his injury sustained against Chelsea but is expected to miss out. We can expect changes from City’s FA Cup side on the weekend.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn, Ramsey; El Ghazi, Watkins, Traore
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Emerson; Cancelo, Ruben Diaz, Stones, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling; Jesus
Predicted Score: Aston Villa 2-3 Manchester City
Villa may look to take advantage of a shaken City side in what could be a free-flowing game. However, with the qualities the league leaders possess, they should come out victors in this mid-week affair.