It was a 2-1 loss against Arsenal and it probably should have been worse. With Aston Villa in a rut and the fanbase plunged in a fog of malaise and frustration, the Villa go from the frying pan to the fire in welcoming Manchester City to Birmingham. The plucky little team from up North with the payroll of most first world nations sits second behind the aforementioned Arsenal and it’s reasonable to say that they’re better than the North London side. Players to look out for include, but certainly aren’t limited to (it’s City, they’re all ridiculously good), include forward/wide midfielder Phil Foden, midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, and, if he plays, forward Erling Haaland. If Erling Halland plays, the scoreline risks getting awkward.
FLASHBACK: It was a valiant effort by Steven Gerrard’s men in this fixture last season, but was not meant to be as Manchester City held onto a 2-1 lead to take all three points at Villa Park.
With City on the very immediate horizon and his job very much on the line, does Steven Gerrard press on the a narrow formation and a three man midfield? Or, given the much needed addition of another holding midfielder, does he roll out a 4-2-3-1 formation? While I’d like to see the latter, with a Boubacar Kamara and Marvelous Nakamba (Douglas Luiz is arguably the better choice here as is a probably too soon to start Leander Dendoncker, but I’d like to see more of Marvelous Nakamba) partnership deeper in the midfield linking up with Emi Buendia in the number 10 position. Philippe Coutinho would play on the left and Leon Bailey to the right. Ollie Watkins starts at striker and I’d have Cameron Archer given meaningful minutes. The backline consists of Lucas Digne, Tyrone Mings, Calum Chambers, and Matty Cash, while Emi Martinez starts in goal. That’s my lineup, but I sincerely doubt it’s Gerrard’s. The backline remains largely the same with Chambers possibly being swapped for Konsa. In midfield, I’d expect to see Kamara holding, with John McGinn and Douglas Luiz playing along either side. If he plays two strikers, you’re likely to see Philippe Coutinho at 10, with Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings. If it’s the Christmas Tree 4-3-2-1 or a narrow 4-3-3, you’re likely to see Coutinho on the left and Leon Bailey on the right, with Ollie Watkins in the middle.
PREDICTION: Aside from a Manchester City win, it’s hard to say what I expect out of this match. I think Villa has the talent to push City, maybe even win if the team was playing to their potential and everything went right. Having blanked Nottingham Forest 6-0 on Wednesday, a similar though less brutal outcome can be expected — 4-1 to City.