Manchester City are set to take on a recently COVID hit Aston Villa to, albeit temporarily, attempt to go top of the Premier League table.
Wednesday afternoon's clash was meant to take place on match-day one this year, but due to City's participation late into last seasons Champions League, it had to be rescheduled.
To get all the information on the opposition, Rank and Report Football run us through all we need to know...
Opposition Report: Aston Villa
LEAGUE POSITION: 11th
SEASON BREAKDOWN: 8W - 2D - 5L
MANAGER: Dean Smith
KEY PLAYER: Jack Grealish
After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, thanks to the final day heroics by Jack Grealish, Aston Villa have found themselves back where they feel they belong - competing with the big boys in English football. Not only are they competing but the Lions have taken seven points from four games against big six teams - capped off by a 7-2 defeat of reigning champions Liverpool.
Although they sit in the bottom half of the table, they have as many as four games in hand on some teams. Were they to pick up all three points in at least three of those games, which were postponed for a number of different reasons, Dean Smith’s side could find themselves in the hunt for a Champions League place. Star man and club captain Jack Grealish has (unsurprisingly) led from the front this season with a tally of five goals and nine assists. After the Birmingham lad was effectively a one man team last season, the offseason signings of Ollie Watkins and Bertand Traore have given Grealish a cast of teammates to play off of. Watkins and Traore have nine goals between them at this point in the season.
Not only has Dean Smith found the formula for putting the ball in the net, he has also organised a solid defence in front of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Tyrone Mings and his fellow defenders have conceded only 16 goals in the league this season - only Tottenham and Manchester City have conceded less. Villa are a formidable test for any club in England. While City are on a hot streak, Grealish and co. may just be the most solid opponent they have faced in a while.
The Aston Villa Threat
As previously mentioned, Jack Grealish is the obvious heart and soul on and off the field for Villa. His ability to dribble, set the tempo, pick a pass and more has left him with many admirers in world football - including Pep Guardiola himself, who had this to say on the 25 year-old: "He’s a talented player who always creates something. (Grealish) is an exceptional player..”
While Grealish will make Villa tick from midfield, Ollie Watkins will be the main threat up top. His pace and power capped off with the ability to find the back of the net makes him a handful for any Premier League defence - he stuck three past Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool. The midfield pairing of Douglas Luiz and John McGinn is as energetic and organised as they come. The pair can set tempo from midfield and provide the perfect link from defence to attack.
Due to a Covid outbreak that ran through the club at the beginning of the year, Smith’s first team have not played a game since New Years Day against Manchester United. While it was a busy period for the club trying to get a handle on the outbreak of the virus, one would have to imagine the squad is well rested. Grealish and co. will be eager to take the pitch, and will be a formidable test for Guardiola’s men.
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