Preview – Manchester City v Aston Villa

The race for that all important last Champions League spot in the Premiership is about to reach its end but before it does there is still plenty of football to be played.

On Saturday afternoon two of the contenders, Manchester City and Aston Villa, go head to head in a game that will be seen as a must-win for both sets of supporters.

Hosts City have struggled during their last two matches, putting in lacklustre performances against Manchester United and Arsenal, while Villa have picked up 13 points from 15 in recent weeks and are unbeaten in five games.

City manager Roberto Mancini knows exactly what is at stake going into the game with a possibly even trickier game to come against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

“We have one semi-final and one final. We must beat Aston Villa. Our focus can only be on this game,” he said.

“If we beat Aston Villa then we can think about the game against Tottenham Hotspur.

“It will be a difficult game because now Aston Villa are fifth and they have played a game more. They are playing very well.”

A season-ending injury to goalkeeper Shay Given prompted City to see special permission from the FA to sign an emergency replacement, and Sunderland’s Martin Fulop joined during the week after the club failed in a bid to recall Joe Hart early from his loan spell with Birmingham City.

Fulop will go straight into the squad for the Villa game and it will be a straight shootout between himself and Faroe Islander Gunnar Nielsen for the spot between the posts.

Nielsen made his debut against Arsenal as a replacement for Given but doesn’t have the experience required for the Premiership just yet, hence Fulop’s arrival.

City also have injury doubts over Emmanuel Adebayor and former Villa skipper Gareth Barry.

Meanwhile, Villa boss Martin O’Neill has heaped praise on Richard Dunne who will be returning to Eastlands for the first time since leaving City in September.

“Richard deserved the reception he got in the game at Villa Park,” said O’Neill.

“Manchester City would accept he was brilliant for them over eight or nine years.

“Richard Dunne was exceptional for Man City over a long period of time. He became an iconic figure. We are just delighted to have him.”


Manchester City (from): Nielsen, Fulop, Onuoha, Richards, Kay, Boyata, Kompany, Toure, Bridge, Garrido, Sylvinho, A Johnson, Cunningham, Zabaleta, De Jong, Barry, Bellamy, Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Santa Cruz, Adebayor, Ibrahim, Nimely.

Aston Villa (from): Friedel, Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Downing, Milner, Petrov, A Young, Agbonlahor, Carew, Guzan, L Young, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Heskey, Reo-Coker, Beye.

Key Players:

Manchester City –
Gunner Nielsen/Martin Fulop

It’s been the talking point of the week so whoever goes between the posts for City is going to have all the attention on them. Villa will no doubt be looking to exploit any signs of weakness, particularly under the high ball with both John Carew and Emile Heskey at their disposal.

Aston Villa – James Milner

The PFA Young Player of the Year has been a revelation this season and has chipped in with a number of goals to go with his stellar performances. He will need to be kept quiet in the middle of the park if City are to win this game.

Prediction: 1 – 1 (Bellamy, Agonlahor)

Author Details

Neil Sherwin
Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

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