Manchester City enter todays game in second place, but a win today will take them back into the top spot where they have sat comfortably for the majority of the season.
With the Toure brothers imminent return from ACN duty with the Ivory Coast, there will be an added incentive to leap frog rivals Utd back into first to give the squad the mental edge in the run down to the end of the season.
Roberto Mancini will yet again be put to the test as he attempts to guide his team to the table’s summit. A loss would not be devistating to City’s title aspirations, but it would certainly put an enormous amount of pressure on both the coach and club.
City old boys Dunne, Ireland and Given stand in the way of a vital 3 points and will inevitably be out to prove a point. As will under-fire manager Alex McLeish, who’s side is precariously positioned in the bottom half of the table.
Joleon Lescott provided an interesting viewpoint against the side he supported as a child, stating: “We didn`t have a great January, but results-wise in the league we didn`t do too badly,’ he said.
“Villa will be tough, we know that, but we need to get our away form back on track as quickly as possible.
“We lost at Everton in our last away game, but despite their position in the league, Goodison Park is still one of the toughest away grounds you can play at.
“It was important we bounced back against Fulham, but we need to prove we`re not just a team who win all our home games by picking up three points on Sunday.
“It`s always special for me going to Villa Park because they are the club I supported as a lad and the first real reason I started paying attention to football
“It won`t overwhelm me or anything because obviously I was at Wolves and I couldn`t really be seen supporting Villa while I was playing for one of their rivals!”
Aston Villa Team News:
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton and James Collins are all likely to be drafted into the side after suffering from respective injuries. Their return to fitness will provide a huge boost to McLeish as he bids to turn around his sides fortunes.
Chris Herd remains Villa’s only long term absentee, whilst veteran striker Robbie Kean will play his last game for the Villans before heading back to LA Galaxy.
Player to watch: Darren Bent
The clinical striker is the only player this season for Villa who has kept any sort of consistancy and provides the only real offensive threat in a toothless attack.
Whilst Robbie Keane has an excellent record against City, his past few displays have been lacking and the aging stalwart is past his prime.
It will be up to Bent to provide the goals and his experience with England could give him the upper hand on Lescott, who he will have trained against with the national team.
Manchester City Team News:
Mario Balotelli sits out due to suspension and may possibly have a few tricks up his sleeve to entertain the media – hopefully a little more impressive than the disappearing cup trick.
Kolo and Yaya Toure will be battling Zambia in the ACN final, a game which coincides with todays game. Their presence will yet again be missed, but with the return of Vincent Kompany in defence and new signing David Pizarro, City should have enough in them to make it through unscathed.
Player to watch: Gareth Barry
Although the ex-Villa captain is hardly eye catching on the pitch, when facing his old club in recent times he hasn’t faired particularly well.
That said, I think Barry has turned a corner with his maturing and ever confident and assuring displays in midfield. He has nothing to prove, having already achieved cup success last season and recieving plaudits from all corners, including Roberto Mancini who understands the England internationals importance to the side.
I think Barry will be able to play his game and orchestrate things in midfield against a fairly inept Villa midfield.
Match Facts & Stats
Manchester City haven’t won in their last four games at Villa Park.
If Villa fail to win this afternoon, it will be their longest run in the Premier League without a home win.
There will be pressure on both sides to get a result but I can see Villa sitting back with men behind the ball for long periods. They have a fairly decent squad on paper, but the departure of Ashley Young has greatly reduced their threat down the flanks. This plays perfectly into City’s hands, who can use the large pitch to pass Villa all over the park, tiring out their aging players and creating chances for the likes of Silva and Aguero. I predict a scoreless first half but City to finish the second half well on top. Villa 0-2 Manchester City.
Europa League: Away against Porto on Thursday 16th February @ 8:05pm.