When Manchester City last played Aston Villa, at the Etihad Stadium on 26 October, there were a few sticky moments before City eventually ran out 3:0 winners.
Aston Villa actually had chances to steal a lead against Manchester City and it took a much improved second half display before City cemented the three points.
Villa were tidy and direct, capable of breaking quickly and in Jack Grealish had a player capable of tantalising City’s defenders. We needed an on song Raheem Sterling and a nice Gundogan scissor kick to really seal the points.
Fast forward a few months and not much has changed. City will likely be open to a counter attack, and slightly suspect in their defending still. The only real change has been the dip in form for Sterling.
More from Man City Square
Aston Villa have been in some difficulty so far in the Premier League and sit in a precarious place, with the yawning chasm of the Championship all too obvious to all.
Indifferent form has been hampered by injuries to a squad which is thin in terms if quality. The loss of goalkeeper Heaton and striker McGinn has just compounded their issues.
City arrive at this game in some rude health, buoyed by victory over neighbours from Salford and on a run of 5 wins. The issue is mostly what side will Pep Guardiola put into action.
Will we see further creative formations or a return to something more familiar? Probably this.is when we will see a 4-3-3 in defence and a 3-4-3 in attack as Pep will be keen to get this game done and the players into a week’s break..
With the prospect of a rest coming up, Guardiola will go with his best team available. So many of the players will pick themselves. The difficulty will be in selecting who misses out.
An early goal could see City power to a comfortable lead. Yet we are all acutely aware of how the impact of VAR and a random red card can soon even things out!
With Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane being the only players not fully fit, and with both of them nearing a return, there will be little soon for Guardiola to complain about.
Ederson is likely to return to his role in goal after an absence of some 5 games. Let us hope that return is incident free.
At full back both Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy should start with Fernandinho partnering either John Stones or Eric Garcia.
Midfield should see both Rodrigo and Ilkay Gundogan sitting deep alongside Kevin De Bruyne. The attack is harder to fathom. Will Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus start? That is anyone’s guess! Thankfully Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez may be easier to predict, although that leaves no room for Bernardo Silva! After the display in mid week, leaving out Bernardo may be unthinkable for Pep. What a conundrum to have!
Predicted Starting XI
Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy
Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Gundogan
Sterling, Aguero, Mahrez