Preview: Aston Villa vs. Manchester City

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Manchester City

Aston Villa host Manchester City in the Premier League on Wednesday, with the Citizens requiring 11 more points to be assured of winning their third league title in the last four seasons under Pep Guardiola.

The Villans, meanwhile, can move back into the top half of the table by gaining a positive result.

Having began the season in blistering form, Villa have significantly dropped off in recent weeks, winning only two of their last eight matches since losing Jack Grealish to a shin injury.

Dean Smith’s side came extremely close to avoiding defeat at Liverpool last time out, though, with recent England debutant Ollie Watkins firing the Villains into the lead largely against the run of play towards the end of the first half.

Indeed, Mohamed Salah had earlier missed a routine one-on-one opportunity for a man of his calibre after Tyrone Mings’s failure to clear the ball, while Roberto Firmino also saw his goal controversially chalked off due to an extremely tight offside call going against Diogo Jota in the build-up.

If anything, Villa were more competitive after the break, with Salah’s equaliser looking like resulting in a share of the spoils as the match fizzled out.

However, Trent Alexander-Arnold silenced his critics with a superb injury-time winner, picking up the ball outside the penalty area before displaying magnificent technique by powerfully caressing the ball into the far corner beyond a helpless Emiliano Martinez, who moments beforehand had made a superb stop to deny Sadio Mane from close range.

Despite a dip in results and performances, Villa should take encouragement from the fact that they can now consistently remain competitive against the league’s stronger sides, having also lost narrowly late on against Man City earlier in the campaign.

Avoiding defeat without Grealish may prove tough on Wednesday, but they have shown they can stay in games even without their most talented player.

City’s dreams of winning a historical quadruple came to a crushing end with a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday, with Guardiola’s side dealt a potentially even more damaging blow in the shape of Kevin De Bruyne’s foot injury.

The Belgium midfielder limped off after 48 minutes, with Hakim Ziyech scoring the decisive goal of the game seven minutes later after an excellent breakaway led by Timo Werner.

City’s lack of response was surprising, with them testing Chelsea’s back-up goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga on only three occasions across the 90 minutes.

Guardiola’s attention must now return to securing his third Premier League title in four seasons, especially with their rivals Manchester United reducing the gap at the top of the table to eight points after the Red Devils dispatched Burnley 3-1 on Sunday to record their fifth successive league win.

While City’s lead still looks unassailable, it is the exact same points deficit at the exact same point of the season which they recovered against Man Utd themselves to win their first ever Premier League title under Roberto Mancini in the 2011-12 campaign.

A win against Villa would certainly do plenty to calm any growing nerves within City’s ranks, then, especially ahead of Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur and next Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg away to Paris Saint-Germain.

The quadruple may be gone, but a treble is still very much within their grasp.

Aston Villa Premier League form:
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Manchester City Premier League form:
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Manchester City form (all competitions):
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