Manchester City will look to build on three consecutive Premier League wins as they travel to Villa Park on Sunday afternoon. Aston Villa sit dangerously above the relegation zone in 17th place, with 21 points, while City are still chasing Leicester in second, and Liverpool, who sit 13 points clear at the top of the table.
Dean Smith’s side have won two of their last three games in the Premier League, and are coming into this one off the back of an uplifting 1-1 draw with Leicester in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night. Despite the return fixture at the Etihad Stadium finishing 3-0 to the Blues, Aston Villa’s enthusiasm to escape from their precarious position at the lower end of the table will threaten Pep Guardiola’s side.
Here are the 11 players the Catalan boss may pick to ensure his side maintain their good form following the turn of the year…
For Manchester City, every player has trained except for Leroy Sane, who will probably return to full first-team training in the next few weeks. Aymeric Laporte is nearer to a return, but Sunday’s game comes too early for the defender to earn some minutes.
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has labelled forward Jonathan Kodjia as a doubt due to illness. Matt Targett will likely return after a hamstring injury, while Danny Drinkwater, who completed a loan move to Villa on Tuesday, could make his debut. Striker Wesley is ruled out for the rest of the season, as is Tom Heaton. John Mcginn is also out until around March.
Ederson looks sure to return in goal after Claudio Bravo’s run of fixtures between the sticks. In front of the Brazilian, I think John Stones will partner Fernandinho in the centre of defence. Nicolás Otamendi looked uncomfortable in the second half against Manchester United in midweek, especially in the build-up to Marcus Rashford’s goal. Benjamin Mendy will likely start on the left side of defence, after an impressive display at Old Trafford. On the opposite side, I think that João Cancelo will operate on the right-wing to try and test Aston Villa’s defence going forward.
In the middle of the pitch, I predict Rodri to line up behind David Silva and Phil Foden. Foden only received five minutes or so of game time in the Carabao Cup semi-final, and has definitely impressed enough in the last few weeks to earn a starting spot this weekend. Kevin de Bruyne, I think, will start on the bench despite his great showing against Manchester United.
Raheem Sterling will probably start in Manchester City’s front line once again, having featured in all but one Premier League game this season. On the opposite side, Bernardo Silva might be rewarded for his heroic performance on Tuesday with a starting role. Finally, I think we’ll see Sergio Aguero leading the line. Neither he nor Gabriel Jesus was named in the starting eleven at Old Trafford, although the latter was introduced after 80 minutes to replace the injured De Bruyne.
Substitutes: Bravo, Zinchenko, Otamendi, Walker, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Jesus.
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