Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 11/20
Having failed to win any of their last three Premier League matches, defending champions Manchester City travel to Birmingham on Tuesday to face Aston Villa, who have arguably been the surprise of the season in the English top flight under Unai Emery, even though their last game, away to relegation-battlers Bournemouth, ended also in a draw.
This will be a match between teams currently sitting fourth and third, respectively, in the English top flight, with no more than a point between them.
Aston Villa’s impressive four-game winning streak across all competitions came to an end last weekend as they managed no more than a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, twice recovering from being behind.
Leon Bailey’s goal nullified an early strike from Antoine Semenyo before Dominic Solanke’s goal put Bournemouth back in the lead after the break. Ollie Watkins, Villa’s standout performer, rescued a point with a crucial 90th-minute equalizer, marking his third consecutive league goal and his eighth in the Premier League this season.
Despite the draw, Aston Villa remain in the Champions League positions. However, a loss against Manchester City on Wednesday could see them drop to sixth in the table if both Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United secure victories in their upcoming games on Thursday.
Following two consecutive away fixtures, Villa will be looking forward to returning to Villa Park, where they’ve displayed exceptional form, winning 17 of their last 18 home matches across various competitions. Their only blemish at home was a 2-1 defeat to Everton in the EFL Cup back in September.
While morale is high in the Villa camp, their track record against Manchester City is less encouraging. They haven’t secured a win in their last 13 Premier League encounters with City since a 3-2 home victory in September 2013 – more than a decade ago. Also, Villa have managed just one win in their last 12 top-flight games played on a Wednesday.
Aston Villa is still managing without three injured players: Bertrand Traore (muscle), Emiliano Buendia, and Tyrone Mings (both knee). However, Boubacar Kamara is back from suspension and available for selection.
If selected, Kamara is likely to replace Youri Tielemans in the starting lineup and pair up with Douglas Luiz in central midfield. Meanwhile, John McGinn is expected to continue on the left flank, with Leon Bailey aiming to maintain his spot on the right wing after scoring against Bournemouth.
Moussa Diaby, who played a role in setting up Ollie Watkins’s equalizer as a substitute in the previous game, will be vying for a starting position, potentially challenging either Bailey or Nicolo Zaniolo. Additionally, Emery may contemplate between persisting with Ezri Konsa at right-back or reintroducing Matty Cash to the lineup.
City have faced an unusual three-game winless streak in the Premier League, a feat not seen since 2017. This stretch comprised three consecutive draws against Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur, despite holding leads in all three matches.
In their latest encounter, the reigning champions of England and Europe settled for a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Spurs, marred by controversy when referee Simon Hooper blew the whistle for a foul on Erling Haaland in stoppage time, denying Jack Grealish a chance to make a run at goal.
Defensive vulnerabilities have proven costly for Pep Guardiola’s team – they’ve only managed five clean sheets in 21 competitive games this season. They sit three points behind league leaders Arsenal and have conceded 10 goals in their last four matches across all competitions.
The upcoming clash with Aston Villa poses a significant challenge for City, potentially being their toughest fixture for the remainder of the calendar year. However, they do have a track record of success against Villa, winning 10 of their last 11 meetings with an aggregate score of 32-8.
City have scored in 17 of their last 18 Premier League games against Villa, amassing a total of 48 goals. Despite their scoring prowess, their previous visit to Villa Park ended in a 1-1 draw in September last year, with Leon Bailey securing an equalizer for the hosts.
Rodri and Grealish are both unavailable due to accumulated yellow cards, resulting in suspension, and while manager Pep Guardiola has an excellent alternative for Grealish on the left flank in the form of Jeremy Doku, Rodri’s absence might prove more challenging to make up for. Matheus Nunes has been dealing with a muscle issue and remains uncertain for the upcoming game; his availability will be evaluated before kickoff. Kevin De Bruyne continues to be sidelined due to a long-term hamstring injury.
Mateo Kovacic could potentially step into the deep-lying midfield role alongside Manuel Akanji. John Stones could be an option as well, pending a fitness assessment.
Erling Haaland, who has reportedly avoided a Football Association charge after the draw with Spurs, is set to lead the attacking line. The Norwegian striker notably scored in the previous 1-1 draw at Villa Park last season.
Manchester City and Aston Villa are the two teams with the most goals scored in the Premier League this term, with 36 and 33 strikes, respectively. And as City aim to put a stop to their winless streak, Villa will be hoping to take advantage of their questionable form and deal a further blow to their hopes of defending the title, thus strengthening their own position in the top four.
Though they will likely stay limited to mostly defending their own goal against the team widely considered best in the world, with pacey wingers and a defender’s handful striker in Emery’s ranks, the City defence should not expect an easy day at the office either.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 11/20
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