Preview: Manchester City v Aston Villa

Undefeated City take on undefeated Villa in a game that threatens to be overshadowed by the upcoming Champions League and derby fixtures. It shouldn’t be.

To get three points City will need to be at their best against an Alex McLeish side that is likely to prove just as stubborn as David Moyes’ Everton. Patience may once again be required.

In their last visit to the Etihad Stadium, Gerard Houllier sent out a weakened team that were easily turned over in the FA Cup. There’s unlikely to be a repeat with an inform Agbonlahor and the ever dangerous Darren Bent. City will have to be on their toes defensively.

After not playing for England, Joleon Lescott should be fresh. It’s to be hoped Belgian disappointment doesn’t adversely affect Vincent Kompany.

The big news in midfield is the return of Nigel de Jong. With a big week ahead, it will be interesting to see how Mancini uses the Dutch enforcer.

Owen Hargreaves is fit enough for a place in the squad, though it remains to be seen whether Mancini finds room for the England international to make his Premier League debut for the blues. It’s to be hoped he does.

Mancini has hinted Dzeko and Nasri may be rested after playing big games for their countries. That would make sense as they’re likely to be needed for the Villareal and United games.

Adam Johnson didn’t play for England and could be given another start after his goal at Blackburn. Silva is a must pick in his current form, while Yaya and Kolo only had the one game for the Ivory Coast.

With Aguero not being risked, Mario Balotelli could lead the line and a performance like that against Blackburn might make all the difference. Otherwise we could be looking to the bench to provide a breakthrough.

If City are to maintain a title challenge, then winning home games is vital. Just don’t expect Richard Dunne to make it easy.

Blue Days line-up:
Zabaleta – Kompany – Lescott – Clichy
de Jong – Milner
Johnson – Y Toure – Silva

Prediction: 2-0 to City.

City training (Fri 14/10/11)
Player ratings: Manchester City v Aston Villa

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