Aston Villa finally return to action after their COVID-19 outbreak with the daunting task of taking on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side have won their last eight games in a row in all competitions, with their last match throwing up an impressive 4-0 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Villa‘s first team haven’t had a game since losing to Manchester United on New Year’s Day, with a coronavirus outbreak seeing three games postponed. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Liverpool, but it was a team of teenagers with the first team unavailable.
The home side have suffered with COVID-19 battles of their own, with several stars being struck down by the virus or coming into contact with someone else. Star striker Sergio Aguero will miss the game as he is still isolating, while Aymeric Laporte, Eric Garcia and Nathan Ake are still out with injuries.
Aston Villa are expected to be back at full strength, with Ross Barkley fit and available to make his first appearance since picking up a hamstring injury against Brighton back in November. Anwar El-Ghazi should start ahead of Bertrand Traore on the right wing with Jack Grealish to return to his left wing role.
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Sterling, Foden.
Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; El Ghazi, Barkley, Grealish; Watkins
Guardiola’s side have quietly pushed themselves into the title race after a rough start to the season. With John Stones and Ruben Dias in defence, City have conceded just six goals in their last 20 games in all competitions and have started scoring more freely again.
Villa are three weeks without a game now but prior to the unplanned break they were in decent form. Discounting the FA Cup game where there Under-9s played, Villa had three wins in their last six games but did lose their most recent game to Man Utd in a closely contested fixture.
Man City 4-0 Crystal Palace (17/1)
Man City 1-0 Brighton (13/1)
Man City 3-0 Birmingham (10/1)
Man United 0-2 Man City (6/1)
Chelsea 1-3 Man City (3/1)
Aston Villa 1-4 Liverpool (8/1)
Man United 2-1 Aston Villa (1/1)
Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa (28/12)
Aston Villa 3-0 Crystal Palace (26/12)
West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa (20/12)
This is a tough one to predict because we simply don’t know which Aston Villa are going to show up. We’ve heard managers talk about how each player recovers differently from COVID-19, and without knowing which players were affected it’s tough to know how they will react.
City on the other hand have become incredibly consistent over the last two months or so and finally look back to their best. They have goals coming from all over the pitch now and defensively are the best they’ve been at any point in the Guardiola era.
At their best this season Villa have been fantastic but City are a different kettle of fish to anything they’ve come up against. Dean Smith’s side will put up a good fight but ultimately they’ll fall to the better team.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa