VMC Preview: Villa v MCFC, Team Predictions
Saturday, 22nd January
This week Aston Villa tried to rival City`s unprecedented dominance in the transfer market with their £24m acquisition of Darren Bent. City`s own poster-boy striker, Edin Dzeko is set to return to the starting line up after sitting out of the FA Cup replay through ineligibility.
'Edin has settled well and he will improve as the weeks go by. He has come from another country and it will take him four or five games to get used to the style and pace of the Premier League because it is different from the Bundesliga, but I thought he made a good start against Wolves."
Nigel de Jong:
"It`s good, for me it isn`t a matter of who you play, but how you play. You have to beat everybody and so it doesn`t matter when you play the games or even if you play somebody back-to-back - the bottom line is we still have to get three points.
"You have to understand that it is not the same Villa squad as a few years ago. They`ve lost a lot of experience and are struggling to score goals. Obviously, Darren Bent will add to the threat they pose and they`re playing at home so it will be completely different from the last time we played them.
"Bent is their record signing and so it`ll probably be a full house to watch him play his first game. For us however, it is just another game. We have to be 100% focused and get three points. That has to be our aim in every game if we want to win the league this season."
De Jong also added that, as he approaches his 84th game in a City shirt, he still doesn`t know what he will do when he finally breaks his scoring duck.
"It will come, I`m sure of that. I haven`t planned anything and it will probably be spontaneous but I`m hoping our fans will lift the roof off the stadium when I finally do find the net! I thought I was going to score against Leicester at their ground and it was probably the closest I`ve come - but it fell on my left foot and I didn`t hit it as cleanly as I`d have liked."
"We had a nightmare up there and didn't play well. We've conceded the majority of our goals in three games. We were a bit unlucky with the penalty up there and then the one where I'm not sure if it crossed the line or not. It will be a different ball game tonight. I think it will be a different match from the one we had there and Roberto knows that.
'They are serious title contenders. They are better away from home and they have the squad. If you look at their bench they could play in the Premier League and finish top six as well.
Dzeko is a good striker. I saw him in Paris about two or three seasons ago. Wolfsburg lost 3-0 but I said to the Parisian people 'buy him'. The manager at the time was Felix Magath. That was in UEFA Cup. They won the title and were in Champions League a year later. He scores goals and make goals. He is strong and very skillful too. It's too early to make an assessment on just one game but it's a really good signing.'
Aston Villa Team News:
Aston Villa`s record signing Darren Bent will make his debut against an in-form City. Other new signing, Jean Makoun is unlikely to play due to registration complications, but the good news for Villa fans is that he has now been granted international clearance.
Ashley Young should return after serving a ban and could play as a support man to new-boy Bent. Emile Heskey serves the last match of his three-match suspension. Ireland will have to wait till next season to make his return appearance, albeit probably with a new club after his torrid time at Villa.
Probable Villa Team:
Walker - Dunney - Collins - Clark
Albrighton - Reo-Coker - Petrov - Downing
Player to watch: Dunney Monster
Bent's high profile arrival means he will get all the media attention, and after a highly controversial move from Villa I'm sure he'll be keen to get off to a scoring start with the Villa. But with the prospect of Dzeko, Silva and Tevez taking the field, it will be the defence who will have to most alert. Marshalled by City legend Richard Dunne, Villa will be looking to minimise the number of chances given to the City strike force. Their defending has improved slightly in recent weeks and Dunne will be keen to continue with their progress against City.
Manchester City Team News:
With the return of David Silva, and the improving fitness of both Michael Johnson and Micah Richards; Mancini now has pretty much a full squad to pick from. The midfield as always, picks itself: Barry, de Jong and Yaya will all start. Kolo should partner Vincent in central defence whilst the improving Kolarov should play left back with the ever-reliable Zabaleta at right back.
Most excitingly for us Blues though is the mouth-watering prospect of Dzeko, Silva and Tevez starting in attack. Three of the world`s best forwards working in tandem really is fantasy stuff; after 34/35 years it`s exactly what we`ve been waiting for!
Probable City Team:
5) Zabaleta - 28) Kolo - 4) Kompany - 13) Kolarov
34) de Jong - 42) Yaya - 18) Barry
21) Silva - 10) Dzeko - 32) Tevez
Player to watch: Edin Dzeko
With another valuable week of training with the squad, beginning to develop an understanding with his team mates; Edin Dzeko should be looking forward to today's game. His fitness is probably still a tad off it's optimum due to the Bundesliga's winter break, but it will no doubt be better than it was on his first match for the Blues. Despite his fitness problems, he had a great debut, linking expertly with the on-running Tevez and showing his deceptively good agility. However, he lacked genuine service into-feet which was mainly due to the absence of David Silva. But Silva should return today meaning we will get our first viewing of two players who are so well suited to playing in the same side. Exciting stuff.
Match Facts & Stats
Manchester City have only lost two of their last 18 league and cup meetings with Villa (W12, D4, L2).
Manchester City scored four goals from just six shots on target when they beat Villa 4-0 in December.
Villa have conceded five penalties in their last five league games against City.
Villa have only won one of their last 10 league matches, taking 6 points out of a possible 30.
Aston Villa have dropped 14 points from winning positions in the league this season.
Since Carlos Tevez joined Manchester City at the start of the 2009/10 season, the Argentinean has scored the joint-most goals in the league along with Didier Drogba (37).
City have won six penalties this season, the highest total in the division.
I really don't what to expect from this match. City are in brilliant form: collecting 23 points from a possible 30, whilst Villa's form is a complete contrast: taking 6 points from a possible 30. However, their recent performances have been much improved, and with the acquisition of a genuine goal scorer, Villa should be gaining in confidence. Bent is right, they are in a false position. They are a top-half team but I do think they continually punched above their weight under MON.
Anyway, looking specifically at the game now. Villa's defence is developing a long-lost understanding once again but are still vulnerable to balls in-behind. Their midfield lacks bite and I expect City to dominate proceedings in the middle with Barry, de Jong and Yaya. Downing and Albrighton will provide genuine width with the latter having a vital role. Kolarov's tendency to bomb forward means that the winger will be given a lot of available space down his flank. This really is inevitable, despite Barry's awareness so Albrighton must make the most of the crossing opportunities he gets. In attack, Bent will face arguably the league's best defender this campaign - Vincent Kompany. Who will certainly not give him an easy ride on his debut.
City certainly have the quality to beat Villa and will be boosted by the return of Silva. But I just can't see us winning this one in the circumstances. Should be a great game though! Prediction: Villa 2 - 2 MCFC.
Sunday, 30th January v Notts County @ 14:00 (FA 4th round)
Wednesday, 02nd February v Birmingham @ 19:45 (A)