Manchester City have dominated English football for many seasons now, whilst Villa have been dormant in the Championship for the past three seasons we’ve not had the novelty of visiting stadia in the form of the Etihad or the (dis)pleasure of pitting our wits against the greatest manager in world football, with arguably the best team in Europe.
This has definitely been an away day that I’ve been looking forward to, being a student in Manchester and working at City, I’ve seen a lot of City over the years. It’ll be nice to be able to roll out of bed and be at the ground in no time – not your standard away day journey (shout out to my away day partner Sam, sorry you’ll be on the coach by yourself for this one!).
Whether you agree with it or not, City have an infrastructure to aspire towards. Copious amounts of money has been spent, there’s no denying that. But, the Cityzens are set up for total dominance for at least the next ten years.
With an array of truly world class talents littered through the team in the form of Aguero, Sterling, De Bruyne, Bernardo and many more, Saturdays early kick off will prove to be a tough task for the Villa.
After cruising past Atalanta mid week, putting five past former Villa keeper Pierluigi Gollini, City will look to try and close the gap between Liverpool, who currently lead them by six points. However, Tuesdays game wasn’t all plain sailing for City, as Rodri suffered a hamstring injury which saw him come off after 40 minutes.
City will also be without Leroy Sane, Aleks Zinchenko and Aymeric Laporte this weekend, whilst Villa have a fully fit squad ahead of the weekend.
The last time Villa conjured up a win against City was back in 2013, a 3-2 win at Villa Park which came in the form of a late Andi Weimann chip to seal all three points.
The lat time Villa managed to win at the Etihad dates back to 2012, in a 4-2 win in the third round of the League Cup, with an own goal from ex Villain Gareth Barry, Charles Nzogbia and a Gabby Agbonlahor brace seeing Villa advance to the next round.
We spoke with Richard Dugdale of Man City Xtra (@City_Xtra), to get some insight into this Manchester City team and get his views ahead of this weekends 12:30 clash.
How would you assess City’s start to the season?
It’s been a bumpy ride so far and definitely had a more ‘typical City’ feel to it than the seasons we’ve gotten used to under Pep. But it’s way too early in the season to take any huge conclusions from results just yet. Unless you’re United that is.
Despite being 6 points behind Liverpool this early on, do you see yourselves closing that gap any time soon?
Absolutely. We’ve had a couple of bad games but that’s largely been down to injuries at the back and an off day in attack. If the defenders who’ve been here for a while now find their form again City will be okay, and Liverpool’s results have flattered to deceive. They could have easily dropped points to Sheffield United and Leicester City but for some strokes of luck, so I don’t think they’re as unbeatable as they’re being made out to be.
You played mid week against Atalanta in the Champions League and beat them convincingly 5-1, do you think playing mid week could effect any team selection?
Pep seems to always have an ongoing sensible rotation of players, so a mid week game isn’t going to set City back for this match. I can’t remember a time the exact same eleven has played two games in a row. Any players that come in should be used to the system.
With the defensive issues you’re having at the moment in the form of injuries, does the lack of defensive options worry you ahead of the game?
Yeah 100% Just when players start to find fitness Rodri has to drop out with an injury. I think Fernandinho is likely to stay at centre back and it’ll probably be John Stones who partners him. Stones has been rusty for some time dating back to last season when Kompany was getting the nod ahead of him. I think he’ll struggle again this weekend but if we can keep the ball out of the net it might build some confidence and get the whole defence back on track.
Tyrone Mings is one of the latest players to be called up the England set up, what are your opinions on him as a player, and do you think he will be key in keeping the likes of Aguero and KDB quiet?
Mings has been really impressive so far. Most City fans will be jealous of you getting him for just £20 million. If Aguero starts; Mings will be key. City have had to resort to crosses into the box a lot recently and Mings looks like he’ll take that in his stride. Staying tight to Aguero might mark him out of the game as he’s struggled with fitness a little lately. If Jesus plays that could be more difficult as he’ll draw the defence out so Sterling and Bernardo can find space.
Jack Grealish is currently the most “in form” player in the league according to Sky Sports, do you see him causing you many problems?
Given his position, maybe. Cutting in from that left hand side and getting at Stones and Walker will cause City issues. Ederson’s in good form though so a long distance shot will have to be a peach to beat him. Grealish will probably have a fair few tactical fouls coming his way.
Pep is an absolute nightmare when it comes to fantasy football and his team selection, could you give us a predicted XI and and score predictions?
We tend to do alright with team predictions week to week to be honest. We’re only usually out by one or two players which is decent for picking a City side.
For the score I’m going to say 1-0 to City. That might seem a bit odd with how dodgy our defence is and with the in-form players Villa have right now. But I think City will struggle to break Villa down for much of the game and it might suit you guys to try and see that through for as long as possible. Then the blues sneak a goal in the last ten.
With my prediction, I’m going to stick to my guns and go with the same prediction I gave the City Xtra lads for their preview.
My head says 2-2 (I’m being very optimistic here), but my heart is leaning more towards a 2-1 win for the Villa. Prove me right lads, please.