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Phil Foden Returns, Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish Start on the Bench - Predicted Team: Aston Villa vs Man City (Premier League)

Manchester City travel to Villa Park on Wednesday night with the intent to end Steven Gerrard's successful start to his Premier League managerial career, and here's the players we expect to start.

Christmas well and truly arrived at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with heavy snowfall prior to the match and throughout the first-half against West Ham. 

In spite of the tough conditions, Pep Guardiola's side battled to a relatively comfortable 2-1 victory, courtesy of strikes from Ilkay Gundogan and substitute Fernandinho. 

Aston Villa may well prove a tougher test for Manchester City, as the club have won both games since Steven Gerrard was appointed as manager, against Brighton and Crystal Palace.

With Chelsea dropping points against Manchester United, the Blues are now only a point off the summit of the Premier League table and will be eager to keep the pressure on Thomas Tuchel's side.

Ahead of the game, here is how we predict Pep Guardiola will set-up his team.

Team News

Kevin De Bruyne, who tested positive for COVID-19 whilst on international duty, has since tested negative and is available for selection; however, the Belgian has not trained.

Jack Grealish and Phil Foden returned to training and Pep Guardiola has confirmed the duo "can play, but not a lot". Therefore, it is unlikely either will play the entire match.

John Stones is "feeling better" after a recent illness. But while he may have received a start last time out, Aymeric Laporte is suspended for the trip to Villa Park.

Ferran Torres, who is currently being heavily linked with a move to FC Barcelona, remains sidelined and is aiming for a return before the New Year.

Predicted Team

In goal, Ederson will start as the Brazil international aims to keep his eighth clean sheet of the season in a bid to win the Golden Glove for a third time. He is currently tied on seven clean sheets with Liverpool's Allison and Chelsea's Edouard Mendy. 

In the full-back positions, Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo are virtually undroppable in their current form. I expect both to start in spite of the busy fixture list, such is the current level of importance of the duo to the Manchester City side in both defence and attack. Oleksandr Zinchenko is a rotation option, but I think Pep Guardiola will take no chances on Wednesday with his selection.

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At the heart of the defence, Ruben Dias will lead the backline. The dependable former Benfica centre-back has been rested a couple of times this season, but that's unlikely on Wednesday night.

Alongside him, John Stones seems certain to start after impressing with his recent run in the side. Should Stones not fully have recovered, Nathan Ake will take his place, with Aymeric Laporte suspended.

In midfield, Rodri has really grown into his role this season. The Spaniard has been a key player, and has a very high level of fitness so should keep his place in spite of the temptation to give Fernandinho a start.

Alongside him, Ilkay Gundogan is in good form and will be aiming to make his trademark runs into the box to find himself on the scoresheet again.

Completing the midfield trio should be Bernardo Silva. Not much needs to be said here. Bernardo has been magnificent this season. He has look fatigued recently towards the end of matches recently, but with Kevin de Bruyne yet to train, the Portugal star should continue in the team.

In attack, Riyad Mahrez will occupy the right-wing role. The Algerian winger will miss fixtures in December and January due to the African Cup of Nations, so Pep Guardiola likely wants to get the most out of him before he departs.

Phil Foden is not fit enough to play the entire match, but I think he has a decent chance of starting. He had been in great form prior to his minor injury, and I can see the "Stockport Iniesta" been thrown straight back into first-team action against Aston Villa.

Completing the line-up, Raheem Sterling has shown signs in recent games that his worst form may be behind him, and the forward will be hopeful of continuing that momentum.

Predicted XI: Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, John Stones, Joao Cancelo; Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan; Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez.

Substitutes: Zack Steffen, Scott Carson, Nathan Ake, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Cole Palmer, Gabriel Jesus.

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