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: Manchester City v Brighton

Pep Guardiola enjoyed the luxury of rotating some of his top players in a comfortable win over Birmingham City in the FA Cup at the weekend, but should welcome the likes of Ederson, Raheem Sterling and John Stones back to the starting XI.

Sterling was nursing a slight knock when Birmingham were swept aside, but should make it for the visit of Graham Potter’s Brighton, who Guardiola said were a “joy to watch” in his press conference on Tuesday.

Whether or not Brighton fans would agree or not is debatable, with the club sitting 17th in the table after almost a third of the season, with their possession-based approach clearly not leading to enough results so far.

One of their main issues has been scoring goals, and they struggled again in the FA Cup, needing a 90th minute strike from Solly March against Newport County, before edging a nervy penalty shootout to progress to the fourth round.

Neal Maupay has scored two in his last three Premier League games though, and has declared this week that his confidence is back after a 649-minute goal drought. He’s likely to play in the absence of Danny Welbeck against the league’s most in-form defensive partnership of John Stones and Ruben Dias, fresh from a clean sheet against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup semi-final last week.

Adam Lallana, Tariq Lamptey and Aaron Connolly will all miss the game through injury, while Alireza Jahanbaksh will be assessed closer to kick-off. Polish midfielder Jakub Moder has joined the squad after spending the first half of the season on loan at Lech Poznan, and could make the bench.

Guardiola is without Sergio Aguero once again for the visit of the Seagulls, as he continues to isolate after being in contact with a COVID-positive person recently. Eric Garcia is in the same situation as the Argentine striker, while Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake are both injured.

As this is City’s game in hand left over from the start of the season, a win will see them close the gap on Liverpool to a single point and go above Leicester City in the top four. Brighton need the points to move further away from the relegation zone, having played two games fewer than Fulham, who are three points below them.

Manchester City take on Brighton on Wednesday, January 13th. Kick-off is at 6pm.

Premier League Preview: Everton v Manchester City

The Toffees have enjoyed a brilliant run of form so far in December with four successive wins going into this clash.

Carlo Ancelotti has opted to for an alternative defensive unit in recent weeks, and despite the return to fitness of captain Seamus Coleman, he’s set to stick with his current back four.

Allan, Lucas Digne and Richarlison will all miss visit of Pep Guardiola’s side with Bernard, Tom Davies and Andre Gomes in line to rotate in.

Guardiola’s visitors go to Goodison one the back of ten games unbeaten in all competitions, but the Spaniard is still likely to shuffle his pack.

Ruben Dias will continue to cover for Kyle Walker at right back, with Fernandinho replacing the injured Rodri in midfield, and Sergio Aguero returning for his first start since October.

And it’s a late start on Merseyside for this one with 8pm Kick Off at Goodison Park.

Ruben Dias own goal secures big point for Baggies as West Brom draw 1-1 at Manchester City

Ilkay Gundogan fired them ahead on the half-hour mark but after a Ruben Dias own goal brought the Baggies level just before half-time, City struggled to find a way through the most porous defence in the league.

There was late drama as Sam Johnstone made point-blank saves to deny Gundogan and Raheem Sterling in time added on but a late twist would have been harsh on the Baggies and flattered this City performance.

It was the first time City had failed to beat West Brom since 2011, ending a run of 13 consecutive league victories in this fixture, and the result leaves them five points from the summit with all of the top four still to play on Wednesday.

City, criticised for being pedestrian in Saturday’s goalless Manchester derby at Old Trafford, did not start much faster here as West Brom sat back.

The big early chance went to the visitors as Joao Cancelo tried to cut out Conor Gallagher’s pass but succeeded only in playing in Karlan Grant who really should have scored as Ederson got down low to his left to save.

Guardiola had restored Phil Foden to the starting line-up but, even against a side 19th in the league, looked conservative in his tactics with Gundogan sitting deep alongside Rodri.

City did not manage a meaningful chance in the opening 25 minutes and the first that did come their way was from a set-piece as Rodri headed over from a Kevin De Bruyne corner.

But the breakthrough came on the half-hour mark as Sterling got to the byline and cut the ball back for Gundogan to finish from close range.

The game sparked into life as Gallagher sent a shot narrowly wide at the other end before Cancelo had two chances, the first a shot straight at Johnstone from the edge of the area before his ambitious volley from De Bruyne’s corner flew wide.

City were looking comfortable but it all changed two minutes before the break after West Brom were awarded a disputed free-kick for a Cancelo challenge on Grady Diangana.

City only half-cleared and after Romaine Sawyers headed the ball back in, Semi Ajayi turned Nathan Ake before seeing his shot deflected in by Dias, ending City’s run of clean sheets at six.

Guardiola trudged off in frustrated fashion at half-time and his players emerged with much more urgency after the break, forcing early pressure as Foden fired a low ball across goal before Johnstone had to punch clear a deflected Cancelo cross.

De Bruyne poked a shot wide, Jesus headed on to the roof of the net from a corner and Johnstone then blocked a Sterling effort from a tight angle as the chances continued to come.

But West Brom were proving stubborn opposition, dropping in with six at the back at times to frustrate their hosts.

Sergio Aguero, over the illness that sidelined him for the derby, replaced Foden with 15 minutes to go as Kyle Walker came on for Benjamin Mendy.

Walker was straight in the action and his powerful drive from range needed a touch from Dara O’Shea to find safety, but Aguero struggled to get into the game as West Brom defended doggedly.

There were howls of protest when City were awarded a dangerous free-kick when Gundogan tumbled under the slightest of touches from Sawyers, but Johnstone got across to make a fine save and deny De Bruyne.

The goalkeeper then starred again with late saves that secured a big result for Slaven Bilic in his 100th game as a Premier League manager.

Kevin De Bruyne inspires Manchester City to 2-0 Premier League win over Fulham

City put five past Burnley last weekend and they were unlucky not to beat that total after completing outclassing Scott Parker’s struggling visitors.

The hosts were right on their A-game from kick off at the Etihad as Raheem Sterling got the ball rolling inside the first five minutes.

Kevin De Bruyne’s perfect pass split the Fulham defence in two and Sterling raced on to calmly clip over the stranded Alphonse Areola.

The talismanic De Bruyne continued to the beating heart of City’s first half dominance, firstly forcing a smart stop from Areola before making it 2-0 on the half hour.

Sterling was caught by Joachim Anderson inside the box and the Belgian routinely tucked past Areola from the spot.

City clicked back into top gear after the break, with Fulham looking to batten down the hatches, as De Bruyne cracked another fine effort against the bar.

Parker’s side did show some signs of life in the final 20 as Ivan Cavaleiro forced a reaction stop from Ederson on the break.

But in reality, Guardiola’s side could and should have added to the lead in the closing minutes as Ruben Dias headed wide and Gabriel Jesus fired over.

Full Time at the Etihad Stadium it’s Manchester City 2 Fulham 0

Leeds United snatch 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half with Raheem Sterling deservedly putting them ahead, but Marcelo Bielsa’s men proved their worth after the break to secure a vital point for the hosts

City were at their flowing best right from the start at Elland Road, as Kevin De Bruyne smashed an early free against the post.

The visitors pushed on from there as debutant Ruben Dias headed just wide, and Ferran Torres tested Illian Meslier.

With all one-way traffic against the under-siege hosts, City finally cracked their resistance on 17 minutes, as Sterling swerved past two tackles and fired home.

However, with City unable to find a second goal before the break, Leeds almost produced an equaliser as Ederson saved brilliantly from Luke Ayling.

Bielsa threw on Rodrigo just after the break, and the Spaniard wrestled Leeds back into the game on the hour.

Ederson made a mess of Stuart Dallas’ corner and the former Valencia striker reacted smartly to tap home his first Leeds goal.

Leeds’ equaliser shook the game into life in the closing stages, as Ederson redeemed himself with a brilliant stop from Rodrigo and Meslier denied Sterling.

But in the end neither side had enough to nick the win on a rainy night in Yorkshire.

FULL TIME AT ELLAND ROAD IT’S LEEDS UNITED 1 MANCHESTER CITY 1

Manchester City sign Ruben Dias

The defender joins from Portuguese side Benfica for a fee of €68m, with another €3.6m in add-ons due, dependant on City’s performance in the coming years.

The signing also sees Nicolas Otamendi return to Portugal for the first time since leaving FC Porto in 2014, as he joins in a separate deal for €15m. It’s also believed that Manchester City will give the Argentinian centre back a ‘departure prize’ of €2m, which is believed to be a sweetener for accepting a significant pay cut to join Benfica.

In Dias, Manchester City are purchasing a born leader, with Dias having captained every Benfica youth side throughout his progression to the first team. He replaced Victor Lindelof in 2017 when the Swede moved to Manchester United, and has been a mainstay of the 37-time Portuguese champions.

Comfortable on the ball and a naturally right-sided centre-back, Dias should slot into City’s starting XI alongside Aymeric Laporte, with Nathan Ake potentially moving to left-back in future weeks. With only six days remaining in the transfer market, it’s likely to be the final arrival at the Etihad this summer.