Man City vs Aston VillaEnglish Premier League, KO: 12:30 Oct 26, 2019, Etihad Stadium
MAN City went into the recent international break eight points adrift of Premier League pacesetters Liverpool, however, the reigning champions will be presented with the chance to reduce the arrears to three – at least temporarily – when they welcome Aston Villa to the Etihad on Saturday lunchtime.
The Citizens succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to Wolves in their last Premier League home game, however, they have since bounced back by collecting three points on the road at Crystal Palace, before annihilating Atalanta 5-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday night
Pep Guardiola will now demand that his team continue their resurgence on Saturday with a view to raising the pressure on title-rivals Liverpool who will square off with Spurs just over 24 hours later at Anfield.
However, standing in City's way will be an attack-minded Aston Villa outfit who very much look like they are well equipped to survive in the Premier League this season.
Following a three year absence from the English top-flight, big spending Villa struggled to find their feet in the early weeks of the season, however, Dean Smith's side have lost just one of their last five league games – the most recent of which was a dramatic and last-gasp 2-1 win over Brighton in the Midlands.
What's more, the Claret and Blue have given both Spurs and Arsenal a scare in north London this season and they will arrive at the Etihad high in confidence having hit the back of the net 11 times in their last four Premier League outings.
Indeed, Pep's champs will represent Villa's toughest test to date following their promotion from the English Championship and that is reflected in Man City being priced as short as 1/10 (UniBet) to pick up maximum points here.
Yet, surprisingly the Sky Blues have only won two of their four league games at home thus far, however, a another failed attempt on Saturday is deemed unlikely, with Aston Villa a towering 28/1 (William Hill) to triumph, while a share of the spoils is an unfancied 11/1 (BetVictor)
Such lofty odds for an away success can be attributed to the fact that City have scored 21 goals in 6 matches at home this season – an awesome goals scored average of 3.5 goals per-game – and although the Citizens failed to breach Wolves' backline, I suspect Villa won't have the same defensive resolve as the men from Molineux.
Although Aston Villa's adventurous style of play is admirable, it's an approach that can often leave them exposed at the other end of the park – so much so that Villa have only registered two clean-sheets across their 11 matches in all competitions thus far.
Therefore, it will take a herculean effort from Smith's side to shut out star -studded City and it's unthinkable that the hosts will fail to find the back of the net in their own backyard in back-to-back league games.
After bagging a hat-trick and putting in another another scintillating showing for City in midweek, Raheem Sterling could be the man to inspire his side to victory against Villa – Sterling is 18/5 (UniBet) to score the opening goal and 4/6 (BetVictor) to strike anytime and add to his tally of 11 goals in 13 appearances.
Both of the aforementioned prices look reasonable, however, I'm going to opt for another angle and turn my attention to the man who could be given the thankless task of trying to shackle Sterling, namely, Aston Villa's Frederic Guilbert.
The young full-back has picked up three yellow cards in seven appearances for Villa this term and the tough-tackling Frenchman looks overpriced at 3/1 (Bet 365) to have his name taken on an afternoon where he will be up against one of the most potent attacks on the planet.
Yet, despite Guardiola having an abundance of attacking talent at his disposal, his free-flowing philosophy regularly leaves his injury-ravaged rearguard vulnerable to cutthroat counter-attacks – as was the case when they came unstuck against Wolves recently.
Vibrant Villa will carry an attacking threat on the break, with the likes of Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Wesley all more than capable of punishing City's shaky defence.
The aforementioned Wesley is an eye-catching Evens (Coral) to have a least one shot on target and those odds appeal to me as the Brazilians physicality and speed could unsettle a depleted City defence – the striker has scored three goals in Villas last two road trips.
Furthermore, don't expect Aston Villa to be set up to spoil this game – Dean Smith will believe that attacking City is the best form of defence – and Villa will more than likely have their moments in Manchester.
Yet, taking the game to a far superior City side could see the visitors get picked off by the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Co, however, I do fancy Villa to get on the scoresheet – and they are a tempting 10/11 (William Hill) to do just that.
With that in mind, backing a Man City win in a match that sees both teams score appeals at 7/5 (BoyleSports) however, I'm going to take a more conservative approach and simply back both teams to score at 21/20 (BoyleSports) – a bet that would have landed in three of Aston Villa's four Premier League away games thus far.
This English Premier League match between Man City and Aston Villa will be played on Oct 26, 2019 and kick off at 12:30