ASTON VILLA v MAN CITY – City can’t afford blank look

As a general rule Manchester City like playing Aston Villa – more often than not it ends in City cheers and Villa tears.

Given the perilous plight of Paul Lambert’s claret and blues, the Villa faithful could be sobbing their hearts out if City push them closer to the relegation trapdoor.

It’s a proverbial ‘must win’ as City strive to sustain an unlikely assault on the retention of their Premier League title and Villa battle for top flight survival.

If ever an opening goal was likely to determine the outcome of a football match it would be this encounter. There’s lies, damned lies and statistics, but Villa have failed to win any of their 13 PL games when they’ve fallen behind (D2, L11).

Conversely, Roberto Mancini’s side haven’t lost any of their league fixtures when they’ve broken the deadlock this season (W13, D2). City have beaten Villa 17 times in the PL – more than any other opponent – and it’d be a major upset if the reigning champions failed to make it 18, especially as the Villains have only one win in their last 10 league outings.

City’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea saw the Sky Blues approaching a vintage that so richly satisfied the palate in 2012. If they continue in similar vein, Mancini’s men could make inroads in bridging the 19 goal disparity between the 50 goals netted after 27 games this season and the 69 during their title winning campaign.

The shortcomings in front of goal have been critical and calamitous contributions to City’s stuttering defence of their PL crown. Underwhelming 0-0 draws at the likes of West Ham and QPR have cost them dearly. Any repeat at Villa Park, would guarantee an even swifter dispatch of City’s most prized possession to the swamplands of Manure.

Mancini remains defiant in the belief that 11 wins to close out the season, would see City emulate their 89 point title winning haul and ramp up the pressure on a ‘lucky’ Manchester United.

It’s a sumptuous notion, but with away days pending at City’s perennial nemesis of Everton and, until recently, Spurs, that’s more than likely all it will ever be.

Pragmatically, City have now to look over their shoulder and stave off the challenge from a Tottenham team aspiring to take AVB into the runner’s up slot.

A seventh away win of the campaign will maintain a five point buffer over the resurgent North Londoners and just – but only just – keep the Trafford troglodytes in view.

Even with Captain Fantastic, Vincent Kompany, absent for a sixth consecutive game, the City defence should prove hard for Villa to breach. At £12m, Matija Nastasic could be the ‘bargain’ of the season, whereas a rejuvenated Kolo Toure is playing as if a new contract depended on it. Hang on a minute…

The centre back pairing could be preferred, meaning the luckless Joleon Lescott will be a benchwarmer at the ground where he scored City’s winner, inspiring the City ditty ‘He’s top of the league, he’s top of the league, Joleon Lescott, he’s top of the league.’

City’s player of the year elect – Pablo Zabaleta will lead the team in Kompany’s absence – and both he and Gael Clichy can wreak havoc down the wings against Villa’s kindergarten defence, likely to be shorn of skipper Ron Vlaar and ex-City favourite, Richard Dunne.

Villa are scrapping for their PL life and desperate men can be given to extraordinary deeds when self preservation is the task at hand. The City rearguard will need to shackle the impressive Christian Benteke if Joe Hart is to capture a third successive Golden Gloves award for the highest number of clean sheets.

To coin a football cliché, City may have to earn the right to play their superior football, but with the memories of  the last MCFC away day at St Mary’s still vivid and raw, anything less than a win will, rightfully, incur the wrath and scorn of  owner, manager and supporters of the blue side of Manchester.

The deployment of Yaya Toure up field would appear a must for the duration of the season, especially with the emergence of Jack Rodwell in the comprehensive destruction of Chelsea.

Despite often unjust criticism, Javi Garcia grows ever more accomplished, sitting in front of City’s backline – his ‘proper’ position – as opposed to the headless chicken nightmare he endured at Southampton as a makeshift centre back.

The industry – and often understated skill – of James Milner has long since surpassed the anaemic offerings of Samir Nasri, with the consequent removal of the largely inadequate Frenchman from first team selection.

Milner combines well with the silky-skilled Silva on a regular basis, whereas Nasri only served to clutter up the place, denying Silva the space to optimise his vision and deft deliveries.

Sergio Aguero is looking sharp and in the mood to emulate his 30+ goal haul of last year, and a clearly contented Carlos Tevez could be primed to punish opponents, after ending his eight game goal drought against Chelsea.

With welcome signs that commonsense will prevail at the Etihad this summer and Roberto Mancini’s services WILL be retained, it’s down to the players to prove that they too want, and deserve, to be alongside their Italian boss come August.

It’s a desire that needs to be evident in abundance if City are to win, leaving Villa to face up to do-or-die challenges against Reading and QPR.




  1. March 3, 2013  11:35 pm by Alan Baxter Reply

    Aston Villa remind me of City in the past. A big club battling to recreate past glories. They're for the grace of Sheik Mansour go us. A ground that regularly boasted 40,000 plus is now in dire need of a revamp, the same could be said for the team, I can't see where the money will come from though. Does this remind you of anything? Us perhaps 12 years ago? We got the stadium and then by a stroke of marketing genius or luck we got the money. That all said, I think we will win tomorrow but I feel that Villa will scrape through and stay up.

  2. March 4, 2013  12:20 am by David Walker Reply

    Our luck came in an unlikely form - Thaksin Shinawatra. Had it not been for 'connections' I wonder if Sheikh Mansour would have been guided our way. Hope Villa stay up but no mercy tonight. City need at least 2nd spot this season - no excuses. After Chelsea win let's fine some consistency and harvest minimum of 83pts by season end. 89pts would be quite cool - seeing out the season with a dozen wins!

  3. March 4, 2013  12:33 am by Dave Bones Reply

    Absolute must win against Villa David,I'm an eternal optimist,but I reckon the dirty rags have just to big a lead,it's the rotten spuds we've gotta lookout for now,not securing 2nd place at least is unthinkable.
    Like you say,we've gotta go to bogey ground Goodson,the potatoe patch & the smelly swamp,I'm getting nervous pal,really would be disappointing if we let the runners up spot go.

    • March 4, 2013  12:37 am by David Walker Reply

      Look at performance against Chelsea - it is well within our compass to finish in 2nd. Gareth Bale is Spurs - end of. We've coped with him before & will again. EFC away is always so bloody hard - why - I can't fathom. Honestly think we'll beat Manure at Swamp.

  4. March 4, 2013  12:36 am by art spedding Reply

    Enjoyed the read , as always. I went to Villa with my son & grandson last season so will be hoping for a repeat performance to keep Spurs at bay after their win today. Then it's bring on Barnsley for at least one more trip to Wembley !

    • March 4, 2013  12:40 am by David Walker Reply

      Let's push the packet - two Wembley trips & a requirement for some silver polishing cloth. Thanks for generous feedback.

  5. March 4, 2013  2:03 am by Kev Russell Reply

    A nervy couple of months will probably age us all by a decade or 2 but you always seem to find a way in your writing to calm us down & take stock. You're right. We shouldn't slit our wrists or lose any sleep over the thought of facing Spurs, Everton away or indeed anyone IF we play like we did v Chelsea. That was the City from last term, the true City. But no matter if we finish 2,3 or 4th it sounds like a lot of back room transfer action is happening & a mass changing of squad personnel will be happening this summer. I remember Fergie telling the interviewer after we snatched the title out of his hand that "This won't happen again" & "I've already planned how we will win it back next season" he was right and he did. I think that is what is happening in our boardroom right now.
    Hurry up & get an invite on the Sun Supp please David. Terrific writing & thanks again for our weekly fix of POSITIVE City journalism. #TopScriber

    • March 4, 2013  3:57 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks, as ever Kev, at last the media seem to be picking up the vibe that Mancini is staying put this summer. With Txiki leading transfer talks I think we'll see a far superior summer of incoming personnel - hopefully Cavani, Isco, Jovetic, Reuss, Hummels etc.

      This should see the departure of Dzeko, Nasri, Kolo, Kolarov, Lescott, Maicon, Sinclair etc. quite a big shake up - but no room for sentiment.

  6. March 4, 2013  7:17 am by Chris Williams Reply

    Always my favourite away day at Villa, from the late eighties seeing Mick McCarthy laying out Andy Gray then David White ripping them to pieces always been a great away day. As long as we perform to our capabilities and do not allow Villa to drag us to their level we should be OK.

  7. March 4, 2013  8:05 am by Steve White Reply

    We need this win to cement the sentiments we've been feeling after the Chelsea win. We need to show some metal for the rest if this season. If not to catch the scum but to get a deserved 2nd. I still live in hope though and wouldn't it be sweet !!!!! Sweeter

    • March 4, 2013  6:01 pm by David Walker Reply

      Sweeter than treacle sugar & chocolate all mixed together!

  8. March 4, 2013  8:17 am by Cathie Hunter Reply

    Enjoyed the read again David!! It should be an easy three points but you are quite correct that desperation can do funny things to a team, so we need to go in there fighting! And while second place might be where people are settling their sights, I've still not given up on that top spot - as Mancini said, it's not over till the last second of the last minute of the last game!

    • March 4, 2013  11:23 am by David Walker Reply

      Admire your optimism & hope you & Roberto are right. Thanks for feedback - much appreciated.

  9. March 4, 2013  8:55 am by Andy Devereux Reply

    As you say David a must win but the following 10 are aswell,although i think we've left ourselves too much to do with some very sloppy results this season but if it keeps old baconface a bit twitchy then so be it and as you say if we can keep winning it boads well for next season.Fa Cup success would soften the blow a bit so lets hope for good things there. Top read again fella.

    • March 4, 2013  11:27 am by David Walker Reply

      2nd place & FA Cup would be decent return & then reclaim title in 2014.

  10. March 4, 2013  8:57 am by Graham Ward Reply

    I think we'll be unchanged for this game, the starting XI against Chelsea by dint of their performance deserve it.
    I don't think it'll be as easy as some maybe suggest, although if we approach the game in the right way, it has the potential to finish like that.
    Benteke, as you rightly say, David, is the man to keep a close eye on this week.
    City are one of Villa's bogey teams...let's keep that going tonight, please.

  11. March 4, 2013  9:33 am by susan richardson Reply

    Glass half full attitude just what's needed and even if the rags win 'their' trophy (cheeky gits) this year they are never going to have it easy again. Premier league will be a healthier place with more competition they won't need to keep appeasing the swamp cash cow.

  12. March 4, 2013  10:04 am by Evelyn Spence Reply

    Love your overall perspective on forthcoming fixtures and I agree, you do have a very positive and calming effect on us nervy City fans!

    Always learn something from your writing, thank you.

    I must admit to feeling a little nervous now about retaining 2nd place but have overwhelming optimism and faith in our boys & Mancini.

    Will just be very proud if we can continue to play & fight hard as we did against Chelsea, no more Southamptons please.

    Very heartwarming also to see our fan's support of Mancini.

    Fantastic piece Dave. Wonder when the media will discover our gem of a writer? Don't forget us when you are rich and famous.

    Always a blue x

    • March 4, 2013  6:04 pm by David Walker Reply

      Very kind! I'll come & find you when I'm minted! Don't hold your breath!

  13. March 4, 2013  10:20 am by Glyn Rathbone Reply

    Again a fantastic piece of journalism. You're correct in saying this is a must win game as all of the are now. Spurs seem to be on a roll & full of confidence. They look like the team that are our main danger for 2nd spot. I can't see the rags slipping up that much tbh. We need to continue with the same application as last week & secure 2nd place as that might have a bearing on who we could sign in the summer. Big players would rather go to teams who have secured champs league rather than ones that need to go through a qualifying process.
    3pts shouldn't be a problem tonight but I never like to be too confident.

  14. March 4, 2013  10:42 am by Neil Haynes-Jones Reply

    As always, a puntastic read!

    As you know Dave, the Villa match always plays a significant role in my working day and hopefully I can hold my head up high (as usual) with the bragging rights...

    When I moved down here, and informed my new colleagues I was a City, it was in the very dark days and I was looked on with sympathy...

    Now that Villa are having a mare, I take great joy in reminding my colleagues that what happened to us could happen to them! Of course I do so with tongue in cheek as Villa are a fantastic old club, but hopefully after tonight they will not be 3 points better off....

    Happy Days


    • March 4, 2013  10:59 pm by David Walker Reply

      Puntastic - what do you mean sir? #together

  15. March 4, 2013  5:06 pm by Russell Carson Reply

    Great read as always David. Same team and same intensity as last week against Chelsea should bring the points home.

    • March 4, 2013  6:05 pm by David Walker Reply

      Absolutely - if City play to their ability we will win.

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