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How should Aston Villa line up against Manchester City?

Can the current manager of the month beat the odds and lead Villa to victory at the Etihad?

Dean Smith of Aston Villa is Announced as Premier League Manager of the Month for December 2020 Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Is the excitement over Villa’s Premier League return finally coming to an end? Over two weeks since Villa’s last league game against Manchester United, it’s time for the boys to head back up to the North West for another tough game. But just how good are Manchester City?

Let’s look at the data.

It goes without saying that this current Man City side are not quite at the same level as the centurion side of 2017/18. After 17 games, Man City have already lost as many games (two) and failed to win more games (seven) than they did during the whole of the record breaking 2017/18 (six). However, a recent run of five wins in a row and a slate of fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table (excluding Villa) could see City back at the top of the table.

LET’S LOOK AT THE STATS

Only Man City (13.5) have a lower expected goals allowed (xGA) than Aston Villa (17.6) this season, suggesting this will be a battle of two teams who have been proven difficult to break down:

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City’s high-quality defence is obvious when comparing the amount of shots they have faced compared with the amounts of goals they have conceded:

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Not only are both Manchester City and Aston Villa proving to be tough opposition to break down, they are also averaging more shots per 90 than any other team in the league:

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The biggest difference between the two sides appears to be the style of play. It is no surprise to see Man City near the top of the table in terms of passes completed and passes along the floor, whereas Villa are weak in those areas:

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With Manchester City clearly sticking with Pep’s tried and tested tiki-taka style of play, it could be an important battle in the middle of the pitch for the likes of McGinn and Luiz.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Manchester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

No player has completed more assists per 90 than Kevin De Bruyne this season (0.67). It’s of no surprise then that the key to avoiding the City attacks is likely keeping KDB quiet. In addition, De Bruyne has also completed the most passes into the penalty box in the league.

However, Jack Grealish is also showing to be a constant threat:

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FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Another player worth noting is John Stones. His newfound partnership with Rúben Dias seems to be bringing out the best in him. No player has a higher points per match return this season than Stones:

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John Stones also had an impressive outing against Crystal Palace on Sunday as he was the highest ranked player on the pitch in a number of different categories:

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LAST TIME OUT

On Sunday evening, Man City played Crystal Palace and comfortably beat them 4–0. If we look at the live xG timeline from the game, the most impressive aspect is the complete lack of opportunities Palace were able to create:

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In the first 45 minutes the only shot Palace had was an audacious attempt by Eberechi Eze from the halfway line.

PROJECTED LINE-UPS

Who do you think should start the game? Complete the form below and we’ll release a ‘fans’ starting XI’ before the game.

It’s going to be a tough game at the Etihad on Wednesday night, but Villa fans have every reason to be optimistic going into the clash. This could be a real statement of intent of how competitive this Villa side can be.