Manchester City travel to Birmingham to face Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa side at Villa Park for Saturday’s 5:30 pm (BST) kick-off, live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. The Blues will be looking to continue their winning run and unbeaten start to the Premier League season.
There were not any major reveals in Pep Guardiola’s pre-match press conference. The biggest news was that Jack Grealish and Nathan Ake are back in training and appear to be nearly back to full fitness. However, Kelvin Phillips is not yet back.
With regards to potential squad rotation or players being dropped for Aston Villa, Guardiola refused to offer any hints, especially regarding the status of Erling Haaland.
“He’s 22. Recovers well, when he’s 32 more difficult. 22, not a problem.”
There has understandably been a lot of worry regarding the fitness levels of Haaland since joining from Dortmund this summer. However, after the German side not only let go of manager Marco Rose but also their head physio, there has been speculation that BVB’s injury situation at the time may have been caused by Rose’s aggressive training style.
Haaland has started every match so far this season, but with the Champions League group stage starting, as well as a huge clash against Tottenham on the horizon, it’s tough to gauge when Guardiola may rest his star striker. But his comments indicate that tomorrow will not be the time just yet.
Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo, Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo, Haaland, Foden
With Aymeric Laporte still out for the next few weeks, the back four write themselves – although now bolstered by the arrival of Swiss international centre-back Manuel Akanji. As for midfield, I expect Kevin De Bruyne to slide back into his midfield role, likely alongside Ilkay Gundogan. The tricky part comes with the forward line.
Assuming Haaland starts, it gets tougher to decipher who will be alongside him. Foden and Bernardo have played too well to deserve being dropped, and for the most part that is how Guardiola picks his lineups. Maybe Alvarez gets the nod, but cohesion with Haaland seems to be the priority so far.
League Position: 19th
Top Scorer: Ings, Luiz, Buendia, Watkins (1)
Previous Result: L 2-1 vs Arsenal (A)
It has been a dismal start to the season for Gerrard and his Aston Villa side. The new manager’s push has very clearly worn off. Villa have now lost four of the first six games of the season, with a win against third-tier Bolton in the Carabao Cup and their lone league win coming against Everton.
It’s been ten months since the former Liverpool captain left Rangers to take his first Premier League managerial role. However, despite having a full preseason and a significant amount of money spent, the team still appears to have no true identity.
Despite the lack of success with Villa so far, Gerrard’s two matches against City have caused the Blues headaches. With Gerrard’s job on the line, he attempted to instil confidence in his side during his pre-match interview.
“The plan will be to make it extremely hard for them and to take them to places where they don’t want to go. We don’t want to go into the game – because of what’s happened so far this season – with any fear around the place. We know we can hurt this team. We’re looking forward to the game.”
Head to Head
The last time City faced Villa, Guardiola’s men pulled victory from the jaws of despair despite going down 2-0 to a Philippe Coutinho strike in the 70th minute to secure their fourth Premier League title in five years – two goals from Gundogan either side of a sublime Rodri effort completed the turnaround in a six-minute spell that will go down as one of the division’s greatest moments, right alongside 93:20, of course.
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistants: Adrian Holmes & Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR: Mike Dean
Assistant VAR: Lee Betts
Written by: @IVIeehan
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