Premier League | Etihad Stadium | Wed 7 May | 7:45pm
Home banker for title favourites.
After Liverpool’s incredible second-half capitulation to Crystal Palace, the pressure is now on the favourites to make sure they don’t do something similar.
MAN CITY FORM
- Everton 2-3 Man City (Prem)
- Palace 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 3-1 WBA (Prem)
- Man City 2-2 S'land (Prem)
- Liverpool 3-2 Man City (Prem)
ASTON VILLA FORM
- Aston Villa 3-1 Hull (Prem)
- Swansea 4-1 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Aston Villa 0-0 So'ton (Prem)
- Palace 1-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham (Prem)
After all, this is the title race that nobody wants to grab by the scruff of the neck, right? Well no, not quite. In fact, the reason it’s been so tight at the top is that both Liverpool and Manchester City have been showing the form of champions, the latter losing only once since defeat at home to Chelsea in early February.
Those were the first points they dropped at the Etihad this season and they’ve only dropped two since. Given the visitors are Aston ‘nothing left to play for’ Villa – who have a blunt attack, a porous defence, an embattled manager whose two assistants have been suspended and an owner reportedly on the verge of selling up – this should be a walkover.
While City score goals for fun at home, Villa haven’t scored more than one away since their visit to Anfield in January and have lost their last four on the road. Before that, though, they were decent travellers. Well, no worse at home than they were away, at least. They’ve also won more points against the top four (10) than anyone bar Chelsea and come into the game off the back of a safety-clinching win against Hull, having lost five and drawn one of the previous six. Honestly, though, we’re clutching at straws. City odds of 1/7 seem about right.
Groin and knee injuries picked up in their last games rule Gabby Agbonlahor and Sergio Aguero out respectively, which is more of a blow to Villa, who already have a number of long-term absentees, most notably Christian Benteke. For City, Jesus Navas should return after an ankle knock, but Matija Nastasic remains sidelined. Of more concern to the home side is the spectre of a £50 million fine and restrictions on their Champions League squad for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
Key battle: Edin Dzeko vs Ron Vlaar
It’s hard to judge Vlaar’s season given the inexperience around him, but if he can summon the spirit of Villa’s opening-day victory over Arsenal, they may just be able to sneak something away from the Etihad. As you can see from the graphic, a few misplaced passes and the odd lost aerial duel aside, the Dutchman was very tidy against Olivier Giroud.
Although Dzeko is quite different from the Frenchman, he will probably be playing as a lone front-man too. Despite two goals against Everton at the weekend, the giant Bosnian is far less dominant in the air, preferring to link the play far from goal before getting on the end of crosses and through-balls with foot or head. Whether those around him can get the better of their opposite numbers is another matter entirely.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Villa 3-2 City (Prem, Sep 13)
- Villa 0-1 City (Prem, Mar 13)
- City 5-0 Villa (Prem, Nov 12)
- City 2-4e Villa (LC, Sep 12)
- Villa 0-1 City (Prem, Feb 12)
Paul Lambert hailed Villa’s “fantastic” performance in the 3-2 win over City in September, but in truth it was a smash-and-grab job – albeit a gutsy one – City dominating in all areas bar the scoresheet. Amid speculation about his future and with nothing to lose having secured safety, the Scot has vowed to attack City; easier said than done when your options are so limited. The same can’t be said of City, despite Aguero’s absence. Pellegrini, who with some justification felt his side deserved at least a point at Villa Park, has warned his team against complacency in the return fixture. Surely it’s the only thing that can stop them now.
Facts and figures
- City have won 10 of their last 11 home games against Villa in the Premier League (L1).
- Villa have taken just 2 points from their last 7 Premier League away games (D2 L5).
- City need 4 goals to score 100 in a league season for the first time since 2001/02.
- Villa need 3 points from their last 2 PL games of 2013/14 to match their total last season (41).
- 6 of Villa’s last 7 PL goals have come before half-time.
- Samir Nasri has scored or assisted a goal in 6 of his last 9 PL games for City.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Villa have lost their last six league games at the Etihad. Make that seven. 3-0.