Manchester City go in search of a sixth straight Premier League victory when Aston Villa visit the Etihad on Wednesday night, and hope to extend their 15-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
The last time any English side took points from City, it was Slaven Bilic’s West Brom outfit back in December, a result that saw him sacked 14 hours later. Since then, City have been perfect, and will go top of the league for the first time this season if they see off the Villans.
After a period of fixture instability thanks to a COVID outbreak at their training base, Villa haven’t played a league game since New Year’s Day, when they were beaten 2-1 at Old Trafford. Since then, their first-team has been out of action, with only what was essentially Villa’s under-18’s losing 4-1 in the FA Cup to a full strength Liverpool.
As a result of the extended break, Dean Smith has few injury concerns ahead of the trip to Manchester, with Ross Barkley training ahead of the game and expected to feature. Brazilian striker Wesley is closing in on a return but will likely miss out, while Trezeguet has had COVID issues and isn’t available either.
Anwar El Ghazi has been in fine form recently and should be available after a knock, while Bertrand Traore is also expected to be OK. Smith will need as many players as possible with a run of six games in 18 days coming up.
Manchester City have been full of goals despite having striker issues recently, and will be without Sergio Aguero once again when Villa come to town. The Argentine is still isolating after contact with a COVID positive person recently, with Saturday’s game against Cheltenham a potential return date.
Aymeric Laporte is back in training after a thigh injury, but Guardiola confirmed he won’t be part of the squad, but Eric Garcia could return. Nathan Ake is also missing but closing in on a return.
That all means John Stones and Ruben Dias will continue at centre-back, and look to build on their incredible run of form recently. The pair have only conceded one goal in their last five games, and Stones has even chipped in with three goals as he rediscovers the form that caused City to pay £50m for his services.
As mentioned, City will go top of the league if they see off Villa, providing Leicester don’t beat Chelsea by more than four goals on Tuesday night.
Villa have three games in hand on all of the top half of the Premier League, and the table is so congested that if they manage to win all three, they’ll be second when the table levels out.
Manchester City take on Aston Villa on Wednesday, January 20th. Kick-off is at 6pm.