Manchester City have the opportunity to half the deficit between themselves and Liverpool (for a matter of hours at least) on Saturday if they beat Aston Villa at the Etihad.
Pep Guardiola will be looking to avoid back to back home league defeats for the first time in his managerial career...
Pep Guardiola revealed that Rodri will be out until after the international break after suffering a hamstring injury on Tuesday night. The Spaniard will miss this weekend’s game, as well as two meetings with Southampton, in addition to the return fixture against Atlanta. He will also be out for the trip to Anfield next month.
The City manager also confirmed that Oleksandr Zinchenko underwent surgery on his knee in the week and will be sidelined for up to five weeks. Leroy Sané and Aymeric Laporte also remain out.
Dean Smith’s Aston Villa will be without winger Jota, who is recovering from a hernia operation, as well as central defender James Chester - who is lacking match sharpness. However Jonathan Kodjia and Kourtney Hause could make a return.
Head To Head
Saturday’s meeting will be 171st between the two sides with Manchester City unbeaten in the last six games against Villa - five wins and one draw since the defeat at Villa Park in 2013.
The Champions haven’t lost a league meeting with Villa at home since 2007. Sergio Agüero scored twice the last time the two teams met as the Blues cruised to a 4-0 victory in March 2016.
City have won three of their last five Premier League games and were victorious last weekend in South London against Crystal Palace, after two quick fire goals towards the end of the first half. They also convincingly beat Atalanta 5-1 in the Champions League, to make it three wins from three in Europe.
Aston Villa come into the meeting in a buoyant mood, sitting 12th in the league and with the potential to make it three league wins in a row after victories against Norwich and Brighton.
Pep Guardiola spoke very positively of Aston Villa by saying: "Villa have team spirit, and quality up front. Wesley is an incredibly strong striker. They’re newly promoted and they’re getting good results. It looks like a good environment.”
He also spoke about Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, who moved to the club from City in the summer due to issues with a work permit. Pep said: “He would be here if the work permit was possible but it wasn’t. He is at Aston Villa. We have an option to bring back. Sometimes it is like this. I think he was happy here."
The City boss also spoke described Phil Foden as an “incredible worker, a fighter”, when speaking about the new Guinness World Record holder following his performance in the Champions League in midweek.
Graham Scott will take charge of his fifth ever match involving the Champions, with City having a 100% winning record when Scott has been in the middle. He will be joined by assistants Neil Davies and Harry Lennard. Jonathan Moss is the VAR and the fourth official is Anthony Taylor, who
took charge of City’s game last weekend.
Aston Villa have been a mixed bag in their return to the top flight. A 2-0 victory against Everton and a 5-1 thrashing of Norwich stand out in their results so far. It’s a couple defeats that will be the biggest point of context for Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff, however. Villa’s performances against Spurs and Arsenal were deserving of better results, and will be an omen that City will need to play at a high level.
Villa are a resilient defensive side that are deadly on the counter. Tyrone Mings has been a rock in the centre of the defence. His performances will have caught the eye of Gareth Southgate, as this summer’s European Championships approach.
John McGinn has continued his fine form from last season’s Championship campaign and it is very likely he will earn a big summer move in 2020. The front three is where Aston Villa will be the biggest threat. Jack Grealish has looked revitalised in the left wing role, where he is given license to roam about the pitch as he sees fit. Wesley has four goals in nine appearances for Aston Villa since his move from Club Brugge. His strength and ability in the air will give Guardiola and his centre-halves all sorts of headaches before and during Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
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