Manchester City have taken full advantage of a comfortable run of fixtures to this point, but they will face a tougher task with a solid Aston Villa side. After a lengthy stretch of cancellations due to COVID-19, Villa are set to return to Premier League action against the league’s most in-form side.
Nevertheless, Villa were off to an excellent start before their run of cancellations, as they still sit 11th in the Premier League table, just one point behind Arsenal, despite having played four less games than the Gunners. For the sake of perspective and comparison, although it is unlikely, if Villa were to win all three of their games in hand, they would likely sit second in the Premier League on 35 points from 18 matches, the same record as Liverpool.
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Therefore, City must be focused in order to keep their stunning winning run going, which has been extended to eight straight matches across all competitions. With confirmation of the continued absences of Sergio Agüero and Aymeric Laporte, Pep Guardiola looks set to rely on the same team that has led City straight back into the Premier League title picture following a horrid start.
Other than the draw against West Brom at home, City have done a great job since the start of December of picking up full points against lesser opposition. Although Villa are a very good side, City would be fully expected to beat them even if they had not been struck with a massive spell off the pitch. With the match at the Etihad Stadium, the expectation is only that much higher. Villa will have the advantage of extra rest, but City are sharper, in great form, and the better team.
Predicted XI: Ederson (GK), Kyle Walker (RB), John Stones (CB), Rúben Dias (CB), João Cancelo (LB), Rodri (CDM), İlkay Gündoğan (CAM), Kevin De Bruyne (CAM), Raheem Sterling (RW), Gabriel Jesus (ST), Phil Foden (LW)