New forwards to face off as Villa meet City
Villa are perched just above the bottom three on goal difference and will hope England striker Darren Bent, who completed a whirlwind 18 million pounds move from Sunderland this week, will provide an instant dividend on their investment.
City, second behind Manchester United on goal difference, will look to Edin Dzeko to build on a promising debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week after his 30 million pounds transfer from German side Wolfsburg.
Bent will be under particular scrutiny after Villa broke their transfer record to bring him to the Midlands but manager Gerard Houllier said he believed the 26-year-old could make an instant impression in the early evening kick-off.
"All I can say about his debut is that when he starts somewhere he scores," Houllier told a news conference. "I'm not putting pressure or sending a warning to City and manager Roberto Mancini but if he starts, maybe he will score."
Bent scored on his Sunderland debut and went on to net 32 goals in 52 league games for the northeast club he joined after a frustrating spell with Tottenham Hotspur.
Villa could certainly do with some firepower as they try to extricate themselves from a tightly-packed basement area in which three points seperate the bottom six.
"I want to help Villa get some points on the board," Bent said. "They are in a false position. They have shown great faith in me, which I'm very proud of."
FINS WAYS TO WIN
City will provide a stern test of Villa's shaky confidence having begun to look like genuine challengers for the title in recent weeks when the goals have begun to flow.
Talismanic Carlos Tevez has scored four goals in his last three games for the club and the prospect of the Argentine livewire combining with Bosnian scoring machine Dzeko is an appetising one for their team mates and City fans.
"I think Carlos is as good as Thierry Henry, although they are different players," City's former Arsenal player Patrick Vieira told the club's website.
"But when you want to win trophies you need a striker who can score 20 to 25 goals a season, even more."
Unbeaten Manchester United host Birmingham City on Saturday before their local rivals kick off while third-placed Arsenal can also add some pressure on Robert Mancini's side by leapfrogging into second place with a home win against Wigan Athletic.
United ground out a 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur last week - their eighth draw on the road in the league this season and a statistic that underlines the impression that Alex Ferguson's side are simply doing just enough to stay ahead.
"If you're top at the end of the season, you can look back and say maybe there were times when we weren't at our best, but it's all about finishing on top," Michael Carrick told the club's website.
"That's what it boils down to. It's about finding a way to win. We've been quite good at that over the years."
Tottenham, whose priority now is to claim a top-four spot, travel to Newcastle United on Saturday with the incentive that victory would lift them back into the leading quartet above Chelsea, who are in action on Monday at Bolton Wanderers.
At the bottom end of the table, Avram Grant's reprieve from the threat of the sack will be tested to the full by a trip to Everton.
Liverpool, still without a win since the return of Kenny Dalglish and too close to the bottom for comfort, travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers hoping to avenge a 1-0 defeat after Christmas that hastened Roy Hodgson's exit.