Aston Villa will be looking to take three points and Manchester City’s place in the standings when the two sides lock horns in midweek Premier League action.
Wednesday’s clash in the West Midlands has all the makings of a top-four six-pointer, with only one point separating fourth-placed Villa and their upcoming rivals in third.
Halting a disastrous 13-game winless streak against the Cityzens in the Premier League (D2, L11) would be a fitting way for Unai Emery’s side to announce their title candidacy.
Not even their most loyal fans could’ve imagined that this encounter would have such an impact on the title race when the fixture schedule was released in June.
But despite occasional slip-ups, such as a 2-2 draw against bottom-half Bournemouth on Sunday, Villa have well deserved their current position in an intensely contested battle for the crown.
Man City’s stranglehold on the division has loosened after three consecutive league draws as Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning team fell three points adrift of pacesetters Arsenal.
Erling Haaland’s profligacy in the first half backfired as Tottenham Hotspur left it late to upset the Etihad Stadium at the weekend, holding the three-time successive champions to a 3-3 stalemate.
After overseeing a three-game winless stretch in the Premier League for the first time since April 2017, Guardiola will be eager to get a response from his troops on Wednesday.
Before a 1-1 draw in this corresponding fixture last term, Villa had lost three home league matches against Man City on the trot, suggesting they could have a mental block.
However, the Lions’ formidable form in Birmingham could point towards a shift in momentum, indicating a newfound ability to challenge and disrupt Man City’s recent dominance at Villa Park.
Emery’s high-flyers have stitched together 13 straight Premier League wins on home turf in a run stretching back to the beginning of March, which isn’t a small feat given some of their opponents.
Tottenham, Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion (twice) are amongst the sides to have fallen victim to Villa’s astonishing form at home.
Man City’s frontlines run like clockwork, but despite continuing to rain down goals at an impressive rate, the Cityzens tend to undo their good deeds up top with cheap mistakes at the back.
With 36 goals after only 14 rounds, they come into the first midweek round of the new campaign as the division’s most prolific side, with 44% of those goals coming on the road.
But Guardiola’s men have gone four consecutive league outings without a clean sheet since a 3-0 battering of Manchester United in late October, conceding at least three goals twice in that sequence.
Particularly vulnerable beyond half-time, the defending champions have seen 62.5% of their Premier League goals conceded in 2023/24 come in the second half of play (10/16).
Long-term absentees Bertrand Traore, Emiliano Buendia and Tyrone Mings are still on the sidelines, but Villa can draw confidence from welcoming Boubacar Kamara back from suspension.
As for Man City, Kevin De Bruyne’s long-awaited return is fast approaching, but this match will come too early for the Belgian and Matheus Nunes.
Guardiola has more important issues to attend to after Rodri and Jack Grealish accumulated five bookings each before Gameweek 19, meaning they face a one-match Premier League ban.
Aston Villa potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Emiliano Martinez; Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Diego Carlos, Lucas Digne; Douglas Luiz, Boubacar Kamara; Leon Bailey, John McGinn, Moussa Diaby; Ollie Watkins.
Manchester City potential starting line-up:
(3-2-4-1): Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Josko Gvardiol; Mateo Kovacic, John Stones; Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez, Bernardo Silva, Jeremy Doku; Erling Haaland.
We Say: Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester City
Regardless of Man City’s defensive woes and the fact Villa have netted 2+ goals in 11 of their last 13 home league games, midweek action bodes well for the visitors’ quest to return to winning ways.
They’ve emerged victorious in 25 of their last 26 top-flight fixtures held on a Wednesday (D1), but we expect Villa to inflict damage on that imperious form.
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