Manchester City need to solidify their top-four position with victory at home to relegation-threatened Aston Villa at the Etihad on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
City have won four and lost four of their last eight league fixtures and recorded just six league victories since the turn of the year. They are fourth in the Premier League table, with 64 points from 19 wins, seven draws and seven defeats.
Manuel Pellegrini’s (pictured) side won 2-0 at home to West Ham last weekend. They started on the front foot and went ahead 18 minutes in when James Collins diverted Sergio Aguero’s cross into his own net. Aguero then doubled their advantage just past the half-hour following a neat exchange with Jesus Navas. From there, it was a comfortable victory.
The three points saw Man City maintain their seven-point lead over Liverpool in fifth and move back to within a point of local rivals Manchester United in third. While Champions League qualification is definitely theirs to lose, they don’t have a huge amount of breathing room. Liverpool have a game in hand and a tough trip to Tottenham Hotspur awaits next weekend.
Man City have been a little unfortunate in some of their matches this year, but their downturn in results has nevertheless been startling. An overhaul now looks necessary. The average age of the squad needs to come down, while there remains a possibility that Pellegrini will be relieved of his duties if the club are able to secure a top-quality replacement this summer.
Pellegrini can not call upon the injured Stevan Jovetic (muscle) or Vincent Kompany (thigh) for this fixture, while David Silva (facial injury), Gael Clichy (knock), James Milner (knock), Samir Nasri (leg) and Wilfried Bony (ankle) are all doubtful.
Aston Villa travel to Manchester having won three, drawn one and lost four in the league since Tim Sherwood was brought in to replace Paul Lambert in mid-February. They are 15th in the Premier League table, with 32 points from eight wins, eight draws and 17 defeats.
Sherwood’s side received a huge confidence boost last weekend by defeating Liverpool to progress to the FA Cup final. They went behind on the half-hour, but a quick-fire response from Christian Benteke and an early second-half strike from Fabian Delph saw them turn the score around and secure a place in their first cup final since their defeat to Chelsea in 2000.
The victory came just a week after the key 1-0 win away to Sherwood’s former employers Tottenham Hotspur and provided further reason for Villa supporters to believe that their side are capable of beating the drop. With three of the club’s remaining five matches to be played on home soil, they will certainly have an opportunity to provide assistance to the cause.
Survival is, however, by no means certain. Just four points separate Villa from the final relegation place. Leicester City currently occupy that position and they, Hull City and Sunderland all have a game in hand on Sherwood’s men. Villa’s final fixtures are far from easy, with four of their five remaining opponents currently placed 12th or higher in the table.
Sherwood is without the injured Chris Herd (knee) and Libor Kozak (lack of match fitness) for this game, while Alan Hutton (ankle), Aly Cissokho (knock), Ciaran Clark (knee), Gabriel Agbonlahor (knock), Nathan Baker (knee) and Philippe Senderos (calf) are all unlikely.
Man City v Aston Villa Preview Betting Tips
City were 2-0 winners when these sides met at Villa Park in October and also recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory in last season’s fixture at the Etihad. They have won eight of the last 10 league meetings between the sides at all venues, and each of the last seven in Manchester. There has been just one draw in the last 15 encounters in all competitions.
Man City have been in very patchy form in recent times but the majority of their defeats have come away from the Etihad. They have won each of their last four league matches on home soil without conceding and will be confident of extending that run to five here. Indeed, with Liverpool still within striking distance behind, three points is a virtual necessity.
Aston Villa could themselves do with picking up at least a point given the precariousness of their current league position. While three home fixtures do await in the final few weeks of the campaign, Sherwood will be hopeful of maintaining the momentum established by two consecutive unexpected victories. A third is, however, likely to prove a stretch too far.
- Back Manchester City -1.5 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 3/4 with BetVictor or Unibet.
- Aguero has scored two or more goals on five occasions this season (including in the recent 4-2 defeat to United). Villa are not that great defensively, and while he has generally not been quite as sharp in 2015, he can still be fancied to score at least twice on Saturday. Back Sergio Aguero to score two or more goals @ best odds of 7/2 with Betfred.