VMC Cup Preview: City v Villa, Team Predictions
Wednesday 2nd March
The winner of this tie will face Reading in the quarters.
'We have a big chance of winning something. The next 20 days are very important because we play tomorrow against Aston Villa then the following week in the Europa League. We have two options. If we win one trophy it will lead to more trophies. This is important for our team. When I accepted this job I knew it was difficult but it is a big challenge and I believe we can win a trophy.
'It is better we have all these games because it means we are still involved in every competition. Everything is important for us. But our problem is having players injured. When you play every three days you cannot work, only recover with perhaps a light session. Is it difficult motivating the players? We are tired here (in our heads) because when you play every three days and use the same players it is very difficult. This is a big problem but only this.
'It is starting to get tough. The priorities are third place and to win a cup. It is important to be in the cup competitions but it is also important that we reach the Champions League. Now Tottenham are three points behind with a game in hand and Chelsea have two. It will be hard but we are third and we should do everything to stay there.'
'If we won the FA Cup it would be fantastic because it would mean two trophies in the same city. We will win things, I know that for sure. It is not the fact our rivals and neighbours have won something that is going to change my mind about what we are doing here.'
Manchester City Team News:
Mancini has complained about fixture congestion and the amassing numbers of injuries, but the simple fact is, that we must chug on and attempt to progress. The draw with Fulham was slightly painful, devoid of our main creative force in David Silva, we lacked impetus and drive from midfield. The number of runs made by Balotelli that went unnoticed was criminal. Thankfully, Asian Dave is back and should be risked whilst the in-form Micah Richards should also return.
Vincent Kompany has been ruled out with the hip injury sustained in the Aris win. Nigel de Jong is still sidelined but could make the bench for Wigan, AJ on the other hand could return in around three weeks time. There are still doubts surrounding the fitness of Milne, meaning he is likely to take up a place on the bench.
As for the team selection - the return of Richards will push Zabaleta out to right back with Kolarov possibly moving into a wing berth. The improving Lescott should partner Kolo in defence with Hart remaining the constant in goal. Barry and Yaya will anchor the midfield with Silva, Balotelli and Kolarov ahead. Tevez may play as the lone ranger; I think Dzeko will drop the bench after his jaded showing at the weekend. To end on a positive note I will mention that Michael Johnson will take up a place on the Berti and could get 20-30 minutes playing time.
Probable City Team:
2) Richards - 28) Toure - 19) Lescott - 5) Zabaleta
42) Yaya - 18) Barry
45) Balotelli - 21) Silva - 13) Kolarov
Player to watch: Mario Balotelli
After what I thought was an encouraging performance against Fulham, Balotelli will be keen to add to his goal tally and link with the returning Spaniard. At the weekend, Balotelli made a host of darting runs across the backline. However, no one seemed to notice these intuitive breaks, preferring to stick with the painfully slow tempo. With the expected return of Silva, Mario should have a reliable supply line - allowing him to get in-behind Dunney monster.
Aston Villa Team News:
Like Roberto Mancini, Gerard Houiller has worrying injury problems of his own. Barker is out with concusion, Collins has a calf injury and Cuellar a hamstring strain. These absences mean that Delph may be forced to fill-in at left back with Clark moving to partner Dunne. Makoun is suspended so Bannan may get a start in central midfield. Darren Bent is cup-tied.
Probable Villa Team:
Walker - Dunne - Clark - Delph
Downing - Reo-Coker - Petrov - Albrighton
Player to watch: Ashley Young
Villa`s top goal scorer this term has put his recent successes down to playing in a more central role. Young has enjoyed the space and freedom available in the middle of the park, opposed to out wide. He has impressed Houllier so much that he took the armband for their recent win over Blackburn.
Match Facts & Stats
This is the 158th competitive meeting of these clubs, and their third this season. Honours are even after the two Premier League clashes.
Manchester City progressed for the fifth time in their most recent clash this month five years ago. They won 2-1 in a fifth round replay at Eastlands.
City needed home replays to get past Leicester and Notts County in the previous two rounds.
Villa have not knocked out City since a 3-2 triumph in the 1938 quarter-finals.
Villa have been knocked out by Premier League clubs in nine of the last 11 occasions they have been drawn against them in the competition.
This is tricky one. There are some obvious positives ahead of this fixture - the absence of Bent, the return of Silva and the actual return of MJ. But after a very laboured performance against Fulham, in which the players looked drained due to the volume of games and mass of injuries. For me, securing a 4th place finish is of absolute paramount importance. I don't mind waiting however many more years for a cup, I'd much rather secure Champions League football and be able to attract the very best players. I just hope Mancini doesn't prioritise winning a cup, at the expense of our eventual league position come May. With Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle all out, the FA Cup represents a realistic chance of silverware. However, I think our style of play is more suited to the Europa League, meaning that I think we have a better chance of winning that competition. Admittedly, I may be worrying a little to much but the league is the most important competition for me. As for tomorrow's game, I think it will be tight. We can't afford another languid start - we must spring out of the blocks and attack Villa. Noticeably, we haven't pressed teams like we did at the start of the season. I'd like to see us pressurise Villa from the off, forcing errors. the return of Richards will boost our wide threat whilst all will be hoping Yaya can put in a good shift. All in all, it's a difficult one to predict. Villa's form has picked up of late and they have started to play more like a team. But I think if we shackle Young sufficiently, Villa will lack a goal threat without Darren Bent. Prediction: MCFC 1 - 0 Villa.
Saturday 05th March v Wigan (H)
Thursday 10th March v Dynamo Kiev - EUROPE (A)