FA Cup preview: Manchester City v Aston Villa

City take on Villa with the prospect of a trip to Wembley in the semi-finals looking that little bit more enticing after Reading beat Everton last night. The biggest problem for Roberto Mancini is the effect that injuries and playing twice a week are having on our form.

At the weekend Villa looked a lot fresher in beating Blackburn 4-1 than we did when drawing with Fulham. The midlanders look a stronger outfit than when we beat them 4-0 in December, courtesy of a Mario Balotelli hat-trick.

The good news for Mancini is that Richards and Silva could return, and Milner ought to be fit enough to start. While for Villa, regular thorn in our side, Darren Bent is ineligible.

Heskey is less of a goal threat but does offer a physical presence which might be best combatted with Boateng and Lescott. Kolo hasn’t been in great form recently.

With Villa strong on the wings it’s to be hoped Richards and Zabaleta are selected ahead of Boateng and Kolarov. The Serb could come on later if we’re pushing for a winner.

With Silva expected to return, it will be interesting to see whether Mancini goes with Balotelli, Tevez and Dzeko. Villa can be strong in the middle of the park so our Italian manager might not be as cavalier as he was against Aris.

Yaya could return to his advanced role, Dzeko given a rest, and Tevez restored to his best position as lone striker. Hopefully Milner will be available to give some work-rate to the central midfield. Ideally the former Villa player would set the tempo with his passing.

If Mancini decides we need to focus more energy on our Premier League campaign following Saturday’s draw and Chelsea’s victory last night, then we could see the return of Jo, Wright-Phillips and Vieira.

The possibility of Michael Johnson on the bench is a welcome one, particulary after it was reported recently that he may be sold in the Summer if he doesn’t prove his worth. If Johnson could make a contribution in the cup competitions that would ease the burden of games on others.

It promises to be a closer affair than the league game, and City will need to lift themselves markedly from the tired showing on Sunday to get a result. It could be worth it as even after playing so many Europa League games, the FA Cup still offers a quicker path to the final.

Roberto Mancini:

“[The players] should understand for us this is a very important moment. This month is a key month for us because this month can change our future.”

The one thing we don’t need is a replay, so at least we can be sure our Italian manager won’t be settling for a draw.

Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):

Richards – Boateng – Lescott – Zabaleta
Milner – Barry
Silva – Y Toure – Balotelli

Prediction: 3-1 to City.

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FA Cup player ratings: Manchester City v Aston Villa

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