I really hope it rains in Birmingham on Monday night. But more about that later. Manchester City travel to Villa Park to engage in a very tasty Premier League encounter. There should be a lot of interest in this match for many reasons. Gareth Barry plays against his former club for the first time. Richard Dunne plays against his former club for the first time. Two of the best clubs not playing Champions League face off in a “best of the rest” challenge.
Both City and Villa have got off to good starts. Positioned 5th and 8th respectively, 3 points would put either team in the Champions League mix at this early stage of the season. Villa were unlucky away losers last week to a plucky Blackburn whilst City bossed West Ham for a comfortable victory.
This is where things get interesting. Gareth Barry, a player who has bled Villa blood swaps teams. Richard Dunne, a City stalwart for the previous 9 seasons is now a Villan. Both moves not surprisingly sparked a lot of interest and it will be intriguing to see how they handle the match. Will Barry be booed? Will Dunne do good? Suffice to say their moves on the pitch will be closely monitored. I expect both players to receive generous receptions and will behave impeccably.
Steve Sidwell is available for selection while it’s probably a week too soon for Luke Young. Stephen Ireland is back for City but it remains to be seen if he’ll be selected.
Michael Johnson should come into contention for a bench spot and of course Ade Adebayor has served his 3 match suspension.
Manchester City 2.45
Aston Villa 2.60
What they said. (From Teamtalk.com)
Martin O’Neill (on Richard Dunne)
“I was delighted when Richard joined us. It was a difficult move. He was part of the furniture at Manchester City for a long time.
“He was their player of the year for four or five consecutive years and then suddenly he is surplus to requirements.
“We were delighted we finally managed to persuade him to come here. He had a few things to think about.
“Leaving Manchester City was obviously his biggest pang and actually coming to join us wasn’t a major decision, or so he said.
“I am very pleased and I think his experience and know-how will help – and is already helping – the rest of us out.”
O’Neill added: “I’ve liked his attitude. I’ve also liked James Collins and what he has done so far.
“I think he is a centre-half who can play the ball and we’ve felt a bit more comfortable at the back.
“As they bed in, they will get better. At the moment, it has worked out okay.”
Mark Hughes (On Gareth Barry)
“Teams have to adjust and correct themselves when they lose an obvious talent like Gareth,” said Hughes.
“Martin was making the point that they have been able to adjust and the impact has not been as great as it was initially feared.
“That doesn’t mean they don’t miss him. It is maybe a case of looking at their own resources and changing the way they play.
“I can understand that. Life moves on.”
Martin O’Neill v Mark Hughes.
Most City fans rate MON quite highly. He’s passionate, successful and has a history of overachieving with his squads. Here’s the big thing. When City sign a new player, quite often on the mancityfans.net boards there will generally be a comment something along the lines of “he’s a good player, but how will he go at Wigan on a cold wet Monday in December?” Normally the response would be something along the lines of “not well, he’s soft.” Martin O’Neill has made a career of buying players able to get results on cold Monday nights in Wigan in December. Grafters who consistently work hard and grind results. The Villa midfield is full of them.
City have lacked these players in the past. However, by buying experience City now have the players who can handle the cold wet Monday night in Wigan AND the Summery Saturday at the Bridge; I’m not sure Villa have the squad capable of that. It would cost a lot but one or two flair players/game breakers and Villa would really be able to compete with the elite and make a sustained challenge.
If Villa can get some joy down the flanks and get some crosses to find John Carew’s head they should do very well. Villa will be hoping Richard Dunne can bring the sort of stability at the back that Olof Mellberg used to provide. Can they handle Adebayor? Or an in form Craig Bellamy?
Villa 1 Carew header, City 2 Adebayor to get his goal-a-game and Dunne (og) just for old time’s sake.
If it’s rainy and cold we should see who wants to play and who is a bit soft.