Premier League: Man City v Aston Villa

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.

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v Crystal Palace

The Villains have looked brilliant on the road in recent weeks with wins over Leicester, Arsenal, Wolves and West Brom.

But at home they have struggled and Smith will need to change that…….and quick.

His team picked up no casualties in their win over the Baggies last time out and he could name an unchanged line up with Ross Barkley and Ezri Konsa back on the bench.

For Palace, things can’t really get much worse after they were whacked 7-0 by Liverpool last weekend and Roy Hodgson looks certain to change things up.

Christian Benteke is back in the squad after a one game ban with James Tomkins, Michy Batshuayi and James McCarthy all pushing for a starting spot

And Kick Off is set for a 3pm start on Boxing Day at Villa Park

Premier League: Aston Villa v Burnley

The last time Dean Smith’s side won in front of the Holte End was when Liverpool were humbled 7-2, with a trio of home losses following that historic result.

Brighton, Southampton and Leeds have all beaten Villa since then, but Smith will be hopeful that struggling Burnley will gift him an early Christmas present when the sides kick-off.

It’s probably not the best time to play the Clarets though, as Sean Dyche’s side are buzzing from beating Arsenal on Sunday and have renewed optimism ahead of what looks like being a relegation fight this season.

Sunday’s three points at Wolves did come at a price for Villa, as both Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash will be missing through suspension. Cash picked up his fifth booking of the season, while the Brazilian midfielder was shown a red card for two bookable offences.

There’s better news in the shape of Ross Barkley’s potential return to the squad though, as the England midfielder continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Smith confirmed he will be looked at on the day of the game before a decision is made on his fitness.

Tom Heaton could return to the squad for the first time this season after recovering from a bad ACL injury, but Wesley needs more time after a similar injury and won’t be involved.

Burnley’s tight-knit squad is in good health at the minute, with the Clarets’ form improving since the influential trio of James Tarkowski, Nick Pope and Ben Mee have all been available.

Midfielders Jack Cork and Johan Berg Gudmundsson have been struggling with injuries, but along with Dale Stephens and Phil Bardsley, came through an under-23 game on Monday fine and could make the squad.

Dyche is unlikely to make too many changes to the side that beat Arsenal on Sunday night, with Ashley Westwood and Josh Brownhill continuing in central midfield after the former recovered from an attempted chokeslam by Granit Xhaka.

Aston Villa take on Burnley on Thursday, December 17th. Kick-off is at 6pm.

Premier League Preview: Wolves v Aston Villa

Nuno Santo’s side have been inconsistent in recent weeks with just one win from their last four games in the Premier League.

A win at Arsenal two weeks ago was followed with defeat at Liverpool last time out but the Portuguese boss is only expected to make limited changes to his starting XI.

With Raul Jimenez the only long-term absentee for Santo he could name an unchanged side from the defeat at Anfield.

But if Wolves’ form is a cause for concern for Santo, Dean Smith has even deeper worries with just one win from five for the Villa.

Smith is expected to be a bit more liberal with his changes than Santo with eight players sidelined for the visitors.

Ross Barkley and Keinan Davis are back in training but Smith will not risk them this weekend with a busy run of games coming up.

Matty Cash should shake off a minor knock in time to play and Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi should also return to freshen up the attack.

Kick Off is 12.30pm tomorrow at Molineux

Premier League Preview: Wolves v Aston Villa

Nuno Santo’s side have been inconsistent in recent weeks with just one win from their last four games in the Premier League.

A win at Arsenal two weeks ago was followed with defeat at Liverpool last time out but the Portuguese boss is only expected to make limited changes to his starting XI.

With Raul Jimenez the only long-term absentee for Santo he could name an unchanged side from the defeat at Anfield.

But if Wolves’ form is a cause for concern for Santo, Dean Smith has even deeper worries with just one win from five for the Villa.

Smith is expected to be a bit more liberal with his changes than Santo with eight players sidelined for the visitors.

Ross Barkley and Keinan Davis are back in training but Smith will not risk them this weekend with a busy run of games coming up.

Matty Cash should shake off a minor knock in time to play and Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi should also return to freshen up the attack.

Kick Off is 12.30pm tomorrow at Molineux

Premier League Preview: West Ham v Aston Villa

The Villains have come off the rails a bit in recent weeks, with just one win in four, and the former Brentford boss will need to rotate to arrest their worrying dip in form.

However, with seven stars sidelined through injury, his options are reduced ahead of the trip to the capital.

Conor Hourihane could come in to stiffen up the midfield, with fit again Bertrand Traore in line to replace Ross Barkley in attack.

The hosts head into this on the back of some solid form, with back to back 1-0 wins over Fulham and Sheffield United.

And that consistency means David Moyes is set to stick with the old reliable here and name an unchanged team for the third game in a row.

And it’s a late one to wrap up the Premier League weekend with an 8pm start at the London Stadium.

Barkley facing spell on sidelines with injury

Barkley sustained the injury in the first minute of the game and though initial scans have shown the injury is not too serious, the on-loan Chelsea man is expected to miss next Monday’s trip to West Ham and the following weekend’s home fixture with Newcastle.

An early target for his return could be the Midlands derby against Wolves at Molineux on December 12th.

The news is a blow for Villa manager Dean Smith, after Barkley started his loan spell at the club in fine form, scoring twice in five games and delivering a stunning assist for Ollie Watkins in the 3-0 win over Arsenal before the international break.

Smith is expected to turn to either Bertrand Traore or Conor Hourihane to fill the void, with the Sierra Leone international the man who got the nod to replace Barkley from the bench on Saturday.

The former Lyon man didn’t do his chances of an extended run in the team any harm, providing the assist for Ezri Konsa’s equalising goal.

Villa travel to West Ham next week in hope of extending their impressive away record, having not conceded a single goal on the road this season as they look to continue their 100% record.

Aston Villa secure shock 3-0 Premier League win at Arsenal

The Gunners were unable to live with their high energy visitors who won away in North London for the first time since 2011.

Villa were quickest out of the blocks at the Emirates, as John McGinn’s goal inside 60 seconds was overturned by VAR.

However, Dean Smith’s side did finally edge in front on 25 minutes as Bukayo Saka diverted Matt Targett’s cross into his own net.

Arsenal did look to rally before the break however, as Thomas Partey and Alexandre Lacazette both wasted half chances.

Neither side were able to get a grip on the game after the restart with Arteta’s team worryingly short on attacking intent.

With Arsenal unable to create anything meaningful in the final third, Villa doubled their advantage on 72 minutes.

Ross Barkley’s corner flew past a line of Arsenal defenders and Ollie Watkins powered a header past Bernd Leno.

That goal took the sting out of any potential Arsenal comeback as Watkins netted his second with 15 mintues to go.

Villa skipper Jack Grealish led the counter attack, and he feed in Watkins inside the box and the former Brentford striker confidently fired past Leno.

Full Time at the Emirates Stadium it’s Arsenal 0 Aston Villa 3

Aston Villa secure fifth straight Premier League win at Leicester City

The former Everton man has looked revitalised following his loan move to Villa Park and his added time intervention makes it five straight wins for Dean Smith.

Villa skipper Jack Grealish was at the heart of it for the hosts in the early exchanges as his fizzed free kick brought the best out of Kasper Schmeichel.

The Foxes did improve after the break, but without Jamie Vardy spearheading their attack, the Foxes were restricted to half chances as Youri Tielemens tested Emiliano Martinez.

Leicester lack of cutting edge meant the door remained open to Villa in the closing stages as Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash both tested Schmeichel.

But despite looking well placed to hang on for the draw Leicester were undone by a flash of magic from Barkley.

John McGinn’s clever ball found him in space outside the box and his rocket of an effort flew past Schmeichel.

FULL TIME AT THE KING POWER STADIUM IT’S LEICESTER CITY 0 ASTON VILLA 1

Chelsea facing summer overhaul, Kante for sale claim reports

The Blues’ domestic season ended in disappointment on Saturday, losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal at Wembley.

Despite cup final heartache, the future looks bright for Frank Lampard’s side with additions such as Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech to feature next season.

Chelsea are also closing in on a deal for Bayern Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz, who has been outstanding in the German Bundesliga this season.

However, additions to the squad means that some players will need to depart Stamford Bridge, and The Times claim that as many as 8 first team stars could leave the club.

The names mentioned include Tiemoue Bakayoko, who has spent the season on loan at Monaco, Ross Barkley, Marcos Alonso, Emerson, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen and Michy Batshuayi.

Unsurprisingly, Willian and Pedro are also doubts to be involved in 2020/21, with Lampard claiming in Willian’s case the ball is in his court.

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga may also be shown the Stamford Bridge exit door after just two seasons at the club and a world-record price tag.

Perhaps the most surprising inclusion on The Times’ list of Chelsea players available for transfer is N’Golo Kante.

The France international has struggled with injuries this season, and arguably hasn’t performed as consistently for the Blues since before Maurizio Sarri was Chelsea manager.

Despite this, Kante is world class on his day, and it would take a decent offer to prise him away from the Bridge.