Date: 30th April 2010 at 1:03pm
Written by:

VMC and City legend Gary Owen exclusively link up again as The Blues begin a seismic week of football with the visit of The Villans…

Vital Quotes:

Roberto Mancini:

‘We want to finish fourth and that is what we are working for. But we have improved a lot in the last five months and we must improve more if we want to be a good team. I think the owners can see that. When you work with a team in pre-season it is easier to do your job. I imagine I will still be Manchester City manager. I hope so. I have a contract. I don’t decide but I think I will be.

‘The players must now put everything that they have on the pitch.’

Martin O’Neill:

‘I can’t do anything about Fulop. Do I understand it? No. The Premier League have made the decision and Manchester City have now acquired him. It would be hard to imagine Fulop as being a third-choice goalkeeper because they have a goalkeeper who is an international.

‘We will go to Manchester City with loads of confidence after taking 13 points from 15. Our away record is terrific. People will say that is because we have pace in the side and are capable of beating teams on the break and I would not disagree with that. We are going into the game with confidence and with a chance of winning.’

Kolo Toure:

‘You know how the best way to cope with pressure like this? Just relax and enjoy the moment because it’s not every season that you have the opportunity to challenge for Champions League football. We are in a fantastic position and it’s up to us how we deal with it.

‘Ultimately, it comes down to how much we really want to finish fourth. We begin against Aston Villa on Saturday and we have to make sure we give everything we’ve got – and I mean everything.’

Richard Dunne:

‘If we can pick up a win it will be an interesting last day. I’m looking forward to it. It’s good that it’s worked out that it’s such an important game for both clubs. It’s something to look forward to and hopefully we can get the right result on the day. It’s big for City. They’re in front of their home crowd and I think that’s the aim. They have to be in the Champions League, so the pressure’s probably on them. They’re expected to go out and win.’

Stephen Ireland:

‘Dunney is still a great mate and I keep in regular touch with him. He’s had a terrific season for Villa, been to Wembley twice and was voted into the PFA Team of the Year. I’m sure he’ll make life difficult for our forwards and will be doing everything to help Villa win. I know he’ll always have a special place in his heart for our supporters because they’ve always held him in such high regard, but I’m sure they won’t mind if he has an off-day!

‘It’s important we win our final three games and claim fourth spot and we know we’ll have to be at the top of our game on Saturday to stop Villa and if we win, it will set the Spurs game up perfectly.’

Jon Carew:

‘We said that if we won the last five games then we’d have a chance, now we’ve won three of them you can see what has happened. Nine points has changed the situation completely and we have a shot now.’

Gary Owen:

‘No matter which way you dress it up, I believe that regardless of the Villa result it will all come down to that Tottenham game. You would expect Tottenham to beat Bolton. But if the unexpected were to happen, a draw for City against Villa would not be a bad result.

‘It’s all if’s, but’s and maybe’s and no matter what scenario we put in there it won’t happen. I would be very surprised if City don’t have to go to West Ham to get something to secure that fourth spot. It’s been tight like that all season.

‘And now Villa who looked completely out of it have pulled themselves back into it! Villa will be coming to us knowing a draw is no good for them. They have to beat us. Our form against Villa in years gone by has been very, very good both home and away. I hope that will continue but they are a difficult side. Martin O’Neill’s got them organised. They have the pace of Agbonlahor and the size of big Jon Carew up front. Defensively putting Dunney and Collins together at the back was a masterstroke. Neither of them were somebody at the time that you would have picked out as the best defenders in the league but Dunney’s in the PFA side this year!

‘It’s a big three games for us. And for our big name, big money players, this is their time. This is why they are paid their salaries. It is for them to step right up to that plate and say ‘This is why I am at this football club. To get us over that line.’ The owners have made their intentions clear and backed those players. Now it is payback time.’

VMC City Video Link: Mancio Aston Villa Press Conference

Manchester City Team News:

Ex Villain Gareth Barry has pulled a hamstring and is rated as doubtful. Mancio in his press conference (see VMC City Video Link) advised that he will face a late fitness test.

Barry is joined on the treatment table by Emmanuel Adebayor who has a thigh strain. Both players would ordinarily have crucial roles to play over the next nine days. Patrick Vieira and Stephen Ireland could start.

On loan goalkeeper Martin Fulop of Sunderland is not guaranteed to start after Gunnar Nielsen’s composed late substitute showing at Arsenal. Furthermore, Nielsen knows the City squad and set up.

The soon to depart Martin Petrov remains out for the season. Shay Given, Michael Johnson and Joleon Lescott won’t pull on a City shirt until autumn according to the latest we have from Carrington.

Gary’s View:

‘If fit, I think Adebayor might start. Mancini may well start with Adebayor and Tevez up front. Bellamy and Johnson meanwhile are wide attacking players and their inclusion at home would be positive.

‘Mancini will be ready to make those decisions. He proved at Inter that he knows the game. You don’t win three back to back La Liga’s and four cups without knowing what you are doing. But whichever player he selects, they know what job needs to be done and that job is to beat Villa.’

Player to watch: Carlos Tévez

Gary’s View:

‘It’s all about scoring goals. Tevez of course hasn’t scored for a couple of games but let’s look at the big picture. We have just played Arsenal and United. United could quite feasibly win the title, but none of their big players have scored in the last two games. For Arsenal, read the same.

‘Villa on Saturday will be looking at Tevez. No two ways about it. He is our talisman. Dunney and Collins will be looking to keep Tevez quiet while we’ll be looking to keep Agbonlahor quiet because they are the main threats.’

Aston Villa Team News:

Richard Dunne returns to an arena and a club where at times he almost single handedly saved his side from relegation. He will continue to play through an ongoing Achilles injury.

Otherwise, outside of the absent Davies, Harewood and Delph, Touchline Mad Professor Martin O’Neill will be naming an unchanged side for the sixth consecutive game.

Player to watch: Gabriel Agbonlahor

Gary’s View:

‘Agbonlahor’s pace has always been a problem for a lot of teams, especially when Villa are away from home and playing on the counter attack. We’ve done it with Bellamy and the pace of Tevez.

‘Carew meanwhile, is always a danger because of his height and has scored a few goals in recent weeks. Milner is having a great season and has gone from a possible to a probable for a World Cup place.’

Match Facts & Stats

City’s 10 Game Mini Season Results So Far (Starting With Fulham Away:

P: 7, W:4, L:2, D:1, F:16, A:6 Pts:14 out of 21, GD:+10

Both Sides Top Scorers (all competitions): Tévez: 28, Adebayor: 13, Agbonlahor:16, Carew:16

Of the last 14 league meetings between the side, Villa have won only twice.

City have lost 6 league fixtures this season.

The Citizens have never lost fewer than 7 matches before in the top English division.

Villa have won 3 consecutive away matches.

Villa have picked up 13 league points from 15 after a 7 goal humiliation at Chelsea.

Follow the action and debate live on Saturday via the popular VMC Live Match Thread in the VMC Forums:
City v Villa – Sat 1st May – KO 3.00pm – Match Day Thread

VMC YouTwitFace Video Of The Week: Classic City Versus Villa At Eastlands Starring Some Famous Faces: 14th September 2003

Ref Watch:

M Clattenburg From Tyne & Wear

Mr. Clattenburg takes charge of a City game for the fourth time this season having overseen the 4-2 win over Arsenal and the 3-3 draw at Bolton in the league as well as the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Stoke…He sent off Craig Bellamy at Bolton and could well reach his bookings century for the season this weekend…This will also be his SIXTH Villa game and under his gaze those games resulted in two defeats, two losses and a win for the midlanders. Has a tendency towards controversial decisions…Current season record: Games:39, Yellow Cards:98 Red Cards:5

Match Prediction:

Gary’s View:

‘It’s quite strange how you have certain teams that no matter what the personnel or what era you are in, you just seem to have that advantage over them. Villa are a team that we have been able to play against and secure good results but it is so tight and Villa are so organised that a lot of people would predict a scoring draw… But I just feel City at home with a full house home advantage and the importance of the game, knowing what we have to do in order to set ourselves up nicely for Tottenham, can and will beat Villa with one goal in it to us…I implore all our supporters to understand that the game could last for 93-97 minutes as United have proven to us three times this season. The backing has got to stay with our players and we must not become frustrated….This game cannot be won in the the first 5, 10 or 45 minutes. Villla are such a good team that this game might well go to the wire. Our supporters must not lose faith and keep giving that support that they’ve been giving all season because we are going to need it… These are a great last three games to look forward to and as I keep saying, had anybody given me this scenario at the start of the season, I’d have taken it. Two at home against two rival sides whose seasons we can both put to bed.’

Next Fixtures:

H: Spurs, Wed 05 May 20h00 GMT
A: West Ham, Sun 09 May 15h00 GMT