Manchester City’s faltering pursuit of a third consecutive Premier League title continues on Sunday as they welcome mid-table Aston Villa to the Etihad Stadium.
The back-to-back champions blew a golden opportunity to reduce the gap on table-topping Arsenal last weekend, with a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur keeping them five points off the Gunners.
Mikel Arteta’s men also have a game in hand, so any potential slip-up in this match-up, combined with Arsenal’s win against Brentford on Saturday, could rule the Cityzens out of the title race in February.
Pep Guardiola’s charges have fond memories of their last home league encounter against Villa, as they came from a 2-0 down to beat them 3-2 on last season’s final matchday to win the title.
Nine months on, the mood is quite different at the Etihad, though Man City could still turn the tables on Arsenal, especially as the two sides are about to lock horns in a top-table six-pointer next weekend.
As for Villa, an almost perfect four-game league start to the new calendar year (W3, D1) ended abruptly at the hands of Leicester City last Saturday as Unai Emery’s team fell to an abysmal 4-2 home loss.
Villa’s hopes of forcing their way into a battle for European placings are far-fetched, as even though they have a game in hand on fifth-placed Spurs, they languish a staggering 11 points behind.
The aforementioned victory in this corresponding fixture in 2021/22 stretched Man City’s winning home streak against Villa in the Premier League to 12 matches.
Guardiola’s players will rely on their strong home form against the Lions to avoid an unwanted piece of history, last failing to beat them in both seasonal league clashes in 2000/01.
But if a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at Villa Park is anything to go by, Man City’s frontline that’s scored just once in the last two Premier League outings could be in for another rough experience.
Emery has found a winning formula on the road, leading Villa to three wins in as many away league games in charge, and could become only the second Lions boss in history to win his first four top-flight games outside Villa Park.
The Spaniard has also turned Villa into a genuine attacking threat, with the Birmingham outfit scoring in all eight Premier League matches under his tutelage at an average of 1.87 per game.
However, the visitors will have to deal with a negative trend on Sunday, having won just one of their last 29 away league encounters against reigning top-flight champions (D6, L22).
Manchester City vs Aston Villa Potential Line-ups
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Rico Lewis, Manuel Akanji, Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake; Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne; Riyad Mahrez, Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish.
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Emiliano Martinez; Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Alex Moreno; Boubacar Kamara, Douglas Luiz, Jacob Ramsey; Emiliano Buendia, Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey.
How to Watch?
Manchester City vs Aston Villa, alongside all other fixtures in England’s top flight, is available to watch online via live Premier League streams.
Manchester City vs Aston Villa Prediction
Off-field distractions involving ongoing persecution brought forward by the Premier League hardly bode well for Man City’s bid to defend the crown.
Guardiola’s men must lift above if they’re to remain relevant in the title run-in, but Villa’s imperious away league record under Emery deserves the benefit of the doubt.
We won’t discard the possibility of the visitors holding Man City winless, but we’re more inclined to believe in the Cityzens’ hard-fought triumph.
Manchester City 2-1 Aston Villa
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