It would be quite the understatement to say that Aston Villa face quite the uphill battle in their trip to Etihad Stadium this weekend.
Manchester City are the only side in the English top flight yet to lose a game this season and will be looking to condemn a Villa side simmering shakily above the relegation zone in 17th place.
However, Paul Lambert’s side can take quite substantial comfort in the fact that his men are the only outfit to beat the Citizens on home turf this season; a 4-2 victory in the Capital One Cup.
With their Champions League hopes in tatters, Manchester City will undoubtedly be looking at the defence of their Premier League crown as a top priority.
The last time Aston Villa clinched even a Premier League point away at Manchester City came in 2007, where the Birmingham club earned a 2-0 victory, prior to City’s 2008 takeover by Sheikh Mansour.
In fairness to Roberto Mancini, his side are yet to get in their attacking groove as of yet, something that bodes well considering they’re just two points away from league leaders and bitter rivals, Manchester United.
On the other hand, Villa are arguably an in-form side of their own, losing just one of their last four games across all competitions.
The Villans can consider themselves unfortunate to not have clinched a result against Manchester United last week and, were it not for a characteristic comeback by the Reds, Villa may have come away with all three points in hand.
Paul Lambert is used to underdog battles following on from his surge through England’s divisions as manager of Norwich City, but the logic on paper certainly doesn’t bode well for this week’s visitors.
Manchester City Team News
Roberto Mancini can hope to welcome back a host of players this weekend, and it looks as if both James Milner and Joleon Lescott may be ready to return from hamstring and back injuries, respectively.
French compatriots, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri, could both return to the frame after neither figured in the midweek friendly against Spain after suffering with illness and injury.
City’s top scorer, Edin Džeko, played the role of super sub once more against Tottenham last weekend, coming off the bench to score the winner and presenting Mancini with somewhat of a selection dilemma.
With a make-or-break Champions League tie against Real Madrid only a few days after, Mancini may rest several of those that featured for their countries during midweek.
Jack Rodwell is the only Citizen confirmed to be missing through injury, while Micah Richards is also likely to continue his rehabilitation on the sidelines.
An option for Mancini is to utilise the 3-5-2 formation that worked so well against Spurs last weekend, although omissions may mean a slightly safer approach.
Aston Villa Team News
For Paul Lambert, it’s quite the opposite issue, with a heap of first-team players absent through injury for the weekend trip to the Etihad.
Richard Dunne is still out of action with a supposed hernia issue, and is yet to feature for the club this season, leaving Ron Vlaar to continue his stretch as club captain.
Despite rumours of a rift with Lambert, Darren Bent is likely to be unavailable not because of politics, but because of an ankle injury that kept him out of the loss to Manchester United, meaning Christian Benteke should start once more.
Joe Bennett and Charles N’Zogbia have also been ruled out through injury, while Barry Bannan could miss the trip after pulling out of international duty during the week with a knee problem.
Eric Lichaj and Nathan Baker are available after suspension and injury, respectively, although Enda Stevens may retain his spot at left-back following a decent starting debut against Manchester United.
Manchester City Projected Line-Up (4-2-3-1)
Joe Hart; Maicon, Vincent Kompany (C), Matija Nastasic, Aleksandar Kolarov; Javi Garcia, Gareth Barry; Samir Nasri, David Silva, Carlos Tevez; Edin Džeko
Aston Villa Projected Line-Up (4-3-3)
Brad Guzan; Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar (C), Ciaran Clark, Enda Stevens; Stephen Ireland, Ashley Westwood, Barry Bannan; Andreas Weimann, Christian Benteke, Gabriel Agbonlahor
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