Preview: Manchester City v Aston Villa

Thanks to yet another away victory, City go into the game against Villa in good spirits. With Blackpool also paying us a visit at the weekend, all we need to do is bring our away form to Eastlands.

The key for Mancini will be to score the first goal, preferably before any anxiety sets in amongst the crowd. Villa’s spirits will be low after losing at home to 10 man Spurs and an early goal could enable City to capitalise.

Gerard Houllier likes to keep games tight and will no doubt be happy with a draw. City’s recent struggles against packed defences mean good games from Tevez and Silva could be critical.

It will be interesting to see how many changes Mancini makes to the side that won at Newcastle. Kolo Toure is expected to return, even though Lescott did little wrong.

Neither full-back looked comfortable on Boxing Day, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Richards and Zabaleta coming into the side.

Further forward it becomes harder to predict. Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli and Jo will all be looking for a start, while Patrick Vieira could step in if Mancini wants to rest either de Jong or Barry.

Both Barry and Milner will be keen to play against their former club. No doubt Stephen Ireland would like to do the same, but that looks unlikely even with injuries to Ashley Young and Emile Heskey. Such is the low esteem in which Houllier views Superman.

Roberto Mancini:

“We have an incredible four games in ten days and we will make changes against Villa because we must recover in the 38 hours and that is not an easy thing to do.”

This looks like a good time to play a Villa side with several injuries, though tiredness can be a leveller in the festive fixtures. Victory would see City go top for a few hours at least (United kick off at 8pm), and Mancini will be determined not to suffer a repeat of the Everton game.

Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):
Richards – K Toure – Kompany – Zabaleta
de Jong – Barry
A Johnson – Y Toure – Silva

Prediction: 3-0 to City.

Verdict: Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3
Player ratings: Manchester City v Aston Villa

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