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: 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: Aston Villa vs Brighton and Hove Albion

Villa have been one of the season’s surprise packages and find themselves sixth in the league after seven games, and full of confidence after beating Arsenal 3-0 in their last Premier League outing.

It’s been less happy at home in recent times though, having lost their only two league games on their own patch this season. Boss Dean Smith has targeted the visit of the Seagulls as a chance to turn that form around, having lost to Leeds and Southampton in their last two games at Villa Park.

Smith will be pleased that he has no new injury concerns ahead of the game, with Tom Heaton and Wesley still out with long-term injuries. Heaton has played some football since returning to training with the under-23’s but isn’t fit enough to return to the squad, while Wesley has started ball work after a similar injury to his knee ligaments.

The Villa boss also confirmed in Thursday’s press conference that Björn Engels and Frédéric Guilbert are unavailable for the weekend, but Kortney Hause returned to training late in the week and could make the squad.

Bertrand Traore had been struggling with a thigh injury, but played 90 minutes for Burkina Faso on Monday and should be involved in the squad. He’s unlikely to start though, as Smith hinted at continuity for the visit of Graham Potter’s side.

Speaking of Potter, Brighton are set to welcome back some faces to their squad. Aaron Connolly and Solly March have both returned to training and will be involved, while Lewis Dunk returns after a three-match suspension.

Leandro Trossard and Davy Propper are doubts though, after the Dutchman had a stomach illness in the week and may be forced to miss out as a result. Trossard isn’t completely ruled out, but Potter has said that the game might come too soon for him after injury.

Alexis Mac Allister, Christian Walton, Florin Andone and Jose Izquierdo are all ruled out.

With just six points on board after eight games, Brighton will be hoping to close the gap on the teams directly above them in the table, as a four point deficit has opened up between them and 15th-placed Leeds United.

Aston Villa take on Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, November 21st. Kick-off is at 3pm.

Premier League: Aston Villa vs Southampton

A perfect start was emphatically ended by Marcelo Bielsa’s side last week, but Dean Smith’s team still find themselves third in the table and could end the weekend top of the pile if other results go their way.

The Villa manager has called for a response from his troops, who have no new injury worries to deal with ahead of the visit of Southampton. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton is close to returning to action, but wasn’t ready to play in a behind-closed-doors friendly earlier this week. He’s expected to play for the under-23’s in the coming weeks as he returns from a long-term knee injury.

Brazilian striker Wesley is still missing, but could step up his return after the international break, while Kortney Hause is expected to miss out again with a groin injury.

Southampton might be tempted to keep the same XI that beat Everton last weekend, although they do have Theo Walcott available again after missing the game against his parent club.

Will Smallbone is still out with a hamstring injury, and despite training this week, Moussa Djenepo will also miss the game. New signing Mohamed Salisu is also out, but is closing in on a debut in the coming weeks.

Aston Villa take on Southampton on Sunday, November 1st. Kick off is at 12pm.

Aston Villa sack Sporting Director over poor player recruitment

Just a day after Villa had secured Premier League survival by virtue of a 1-1 draw with West Ham, the club moved to dismiss Pitarch, who oversaw £140m of spending on players last summer.

It’s understood that the powers that be at Aston Villa are unhappy with the player recruitment this season, but are happy with manager Dean Smith – reports claim that he would have stayed at Villa Park regardless of whether the club were relegated to the Championship.

Smith is allegedly responsible for the capture of Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings, but several underperforming signings such as Wesley, Marvelous Nakamba and Mbwana Samatta were all on the Sporting Director’s watch.

Whoever the club bring in to replace the outgoing Jesus Gracia Pitarch will have a job on their hands, with their first task the unenviable challenge of keeping hold of star player and talisman Jack Grealish.