“Prepared” may be the word on the Aston Villa emblem,but the Villa faithful weren’t quite prepared for the turbulent season that laid ahead when Paul Lambert took over the reins from Alex McLeish.
This week’s Monday night game brings together two teams from the two ends of the Premier League table. While it’s hard to see Manchester City mount up any sort of challenge for the title , Aston Villa have all to play for with their Premier League status up for grabs.
Currently sitting a whopping 15 points from the top, it will only take something close to a miracle if Sir Alex’s noisy neighbours are to mount a roaring comeback. The thing that the Citizens are more likely to play for is a passage to the Champions League next season without having to go through the qualifiers.
Villa fans would just be praying for the end of this nightmarish season with their place in the Premier league season still intact. Paul Lambert hasn’t been able to inspire the kind of response he managed at Norwich, but results in the week’s games will give the Scot respite as none of the fellow bottom dwellers were able to conjure up anything significant except QPR.
The Midlands side will however not have many fond memories of the fixture after being trounced 5-0 at the Etihad earlier in the season, courtesy of a double from Sergio Aguero. With City pouring in four or more goals in 3 of their past 5 meetings, they certainly aren’t Villa’s favourite opponents.
4 losses in the past 6 games is already bad, especially when two of them were inflicted by the hands of lower league oppositions. Home form has been one of the biggest reasons for Villa’s downfall this season, with only 3 home wins in the Premier League so far.
However, the last two games should have given the Villans a glimmer of hope as they beat West Ham at home and put up a spirited display against Arsenal at the Emirates, only to go down via a late Santi Cazorla strike.
Christian Benteke has really made many heads turn with 11 goals in the campaign so far. Charles N’Zogbia is finally showing traces of the player that they had spent £10million on last season. But it will take more than the Frenchman to dig Villa out of the hole they are in. Only 26 goals in 27 games (good enough for second lowest in the league) doesn’t inspire much confidence.
It’s not only scoring goals. The Villa defence has been leaky all season. Letting in 12 goals in their past 6 games and 52 in 27 games is not what gets a team 3 points. A feat they have only achieved 5 times this year.
The win against Chelsea seems to have given City a boost after gaining only 2 points from their previous 3 Premier League games. That stretch of games may have put their cross town rivals out of sight regarding the challenge for the title, but the least that we learnt from the Citizens last season is that the team has the heart of a winner and would give it their all until it’s mathematically impossible.
Villa presents an opportunity for Mancini’s men to go on a run and be in a position to challenge the Red Devils if they suffer a blip any time soon. The return of Yaya Toure to form will be crucial for City.
Villa may be without their skipper Ron Vlaar. The Dutchman continues to fight calf troubles which made him miss their last game away at The Emirates. He trained on Friday and will be evaluated on gameday.
Darren Bent‘s foot injury makes him a doubt for the game, while Shay Given is likely to be in the squad to face his ex-employers after recovering from a groin problem.
Vincent Kompany‘s return from a calf injury is taking more time than City anticipated. The Belgium international is unlikely to make his comeback in this game either.
Ex-Villa favourite Gareth Barry has missed City’s last few games with an ankle injury but should be in line to play at his old hunting ground.
0.84- Manchester City will be facing one of their favourite Premier League opponents in Villa. The Villans average only 0.84 pts per game against the Citizens. Only Manchester United and Arsenal average lesser.
1 - Manchester City have only won once in their last 5 visits to Villa Park. Their last victory came in last season’s corresponding fixture, where a Jolean Lescott header was the only goal of the game.
6 - Christian Benteke leads the Premier League goal scoring charts for 2012 with 6 hits.
11 - Aston Villa haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 11 Premier League games, the longest such streak in the division.
13 - Manchester City have scored 13 goals after 80 minutes. Only Reading has scored more.