Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham
28/09/13 at 15:00
Referee: Michael Jones
Following on from a fantastic performance in the derby Manchester City took on Wigan in the League Cup and with last year’s FA Cup loss still fresh in the mind the Latics were a potential banana skin for Pellegrini to negotiate. Mancini tended to make multiple changes for the league cup bringing in 3 or 4 of the youth players, often in pivotal positions and as a result his sides often struggled for momentum in this competition. Whilst he made wholesale changes Pellegrini was astute with them using the game to give good work outs to Richards and Clichy coming back from injury and Jovetic looking to find match fitness ahead of a very busy and important month for the club. With 10 changes from the side that took on Manchester United Pellegrini was still able to field a strong team – Marcos Lopes impressed with some clever football and whilst the opposition was not of the highest order it good to see a fairly assured display from Dedryck Boyata who will be looking to cement his place in the squad following something of a difficult couple of years in various disappointing loans. In the end an accomplished City side ran out 5-0 winners with Jovetic and Navas notching their first goals for the club and Yaya Toure despatching another good free kick.
Squad sheets courtesy of the Guardian
After a somewhat shaky start to the season there were some suggestions that Pellegrini’s style was not going to work in England. City had looked fragile at the back and going forward had lacked a real cutting edge however the last couple of games have bucked the trend with City scoring seemingly at will and looking a lot more solid. Without doubt the return from injury of club captain Vincent Kompany has played a huge part in that, he was simply colossal in the derby. Anything that came near the box was dispatched at will and that solid platform gives the entire team confidence to express themselves going forward as is clearly Pellegrini’s wish. Predicting a line-up this week is tricky, with Bayern Munich looming large on the horizon at the start of such a busy month Pellegrini has two options; he could look to rest his stronger players again to keep them fresh for the vital Champions League fixture, however it is more likely that he will look to keep them playing and as the supposed first XI were off duty for most of last week’s cup tie and Pellegrini will be looking for them to build on the excellent performance against United and use his subs to keep key men fresh.
Joe Hart is surely a certainty between the sticks and there seems no reason to deviate from the partnership of Nastasic and Kompany at centre back, in a tie which shouldn’t on paper see them troubled excessively there is no worry about them heading into this game and starting against Bayern. For the last 18 months Zabaleta and Clichy have been City’s preferred full backs however Kolarov gave a good performance in the derby – particularly going forward and Richards also proved to be a fantastic outlet down the right hand side against Wigan, both performances will have delighted the Chilean in charge at the Etihad as he looks ahead to a packed fixture list but on this occasion consistency is key and expect Zabaleta and Clichy to start.
In midfield it is almost a certainty that Fernandinho and Yaya Toure will continue in the middle of the park. Before the United game their partnership in midfield was causing a little bit of worry amongst many City fans with both players natural games looking to be almost shackled by the lack of holding midfielder to cover for them. Whilst it is impossible to know exactly what Pellergini has asked of them in recent weeks the return of Vincent Kompany has coincided with an upturn in performances from both Fernandinho and Yaya and it’s not unreasonable to suggest they had been asked to curb their natural game to look after the back four. Against United they looked a completely different proposition, Fernandinho was up and down in front of the back four putting his foot in and making a number of good interceptions and Toure was allowed more freedom to get on the ball, get forward and influence the game and with both only playing 45 minutes in mid-week expect more of the same at Villa as Pellergini looks to further develop their understanding.
City’s midfield is firing on all cylinders
Out wide Milner impressed with a typically energetic 90 minutes against Wigan and whilst he would have no problems playing back to back games it looks likely that Navas will start on the right hand side against Villa with Nasri coming back into the side on the left. This week may perhaps see David Silva make a cameo from the bench in order to build a bit of fitness ahead of the crucial champions league tie however with Nasri clearly enjoying the new holistic regime at City and showing some good form it is more than likely he will continue against Bayern even if Silva is available.
Upfront Pellergini has the most wonderful of headaches with four fit centre forwards all of whom have found the net in the last few matches. Perhaps the best performers so far have been Aguero and Negredo. Sergio is looking like he is slowly returning to the form that shot City to the title and in Negredo City have unearthed a brilliant centre forward to partner him. Coming in almost under the radar amongst bigger moves this summer the “Beast of Vallecas” is a perfect combination of strength and skill and terrorised Ferdinand and Vidic with a wonderful display in the derby. If he continues in that vein then it is likely that this pair could form a devastating partnership with all the assets to worry any defence. They are again likely to get the nod against Villa and all being well one or the other is likely to be withdrawn with an eye on the Champions League. Although rumours are starting to circulate that Aguero has picked up a knock which will rule him out, if this is the case then Dzeko is most likely to come in.
Not a marquee signing but Premier League defenders will soon be having nigtmares about Alvaro Negredo
These days there are two different Aston Villa sides, the one with Benteke and the one without. Fortunately for City they will line up against the one without which should prove to be much less of a threat than they otherwise might be. The big Belgian forward is a fantastic player and Villa have done well to hold on to him following his first season in the Premier League but its understandable that without him they may struggle without him.
Following a brilliant opening day away win at the Emirates Villa currently sit in mid-table with a win in the league at Norwich last time out ending a run of three straight defeats in the league, there has not been much respite in the cup either with a 4-0 loss to Tottenham in mid-week. A look at their stats shows that without Benteke they have only scored two goals in the league this year and Paul Lambert will be looking for Weimann, Agbonlahor, Kozak and Helenius to step up to the plate in the coming weeks to avoid last seasons lengthy flirtation with the drop zone.
At the back Villa have struggled to field a consistent side, Brad Guzan has established himself as number one ahead of ex Blue Shay Given but they have fielded a number of different centre back partnerships. Captain Ron Vlaar has so far had three different partners at the back and Paul Lambert is likely to start him alongside Nathan Baker this week. At left back they have a former teammate of Negredo and Navas in the shape of Antonio Luna and whilst Lambert will be hoping his inside knowledge of Jesus Navas will help them out it is fairly unlikely. Predicting what Navas is going to do is often fairly simple (he tends to run down the line and cross into the middle) stopping him is the difficult bit and Luna will have his work cut out this weekend as will Villa’s right back which is likely to be Matthew Lowton .
Villa are likely to line up in a 4-3-3 style formation with a midfield three of Leandro Bacuna, Karim El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph and whilst they will hold the numerical advantage in midfield it is difficult to see them containing an inform City side. Out wide a lot will be asked of Agbonlahor and Weimann who will be tasked with tracking back and looking to plug the wide areas for Villa when City have the ball and then spring counter attacks wherever possible.
Upfront Lambert has a straight choice between Libor Kozak and Nicklas Helenius, both are big target men similar to Benteke. With Helenius having his pants pulled down at Spurs in the week it is likely that Kozak will lead the line and whichever one Lambert turns to will have a long day of hard work battling with the inform Vincent Kompany.
Helenius has his pants pulled down at Spurs.
Without the injured Benteke Aston Villa are nothing like the threat they could be and if City turn up and play with intensity they should be far too hot to handle, Villa 0 – 3 City.