With Aston Villa languishing near the foot of the table, under-fire sack race favourite Steven Gerrard faces another daunting task against Pep Guardiola and his free-scoring City side on Saturday evening. The Cityzens have won each of their last nine encounters with the Villians – can the hosts stop the rot this weekend?
With summer acquisition Diego Carlos still injured, Steven Gerrard must pair underperforming duo Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings together at centre-half.
Gerrard hasn’t wavered from his favoured 4-3-3 set-up despite a dreadful set of results, so expect to see the same formation against City. Douglas Luiz will be desperate to start against his old club in midfield having been benched at Arsenal on Wednesday.
Erling Haaland will expect to be rested at some juncture, though it would be a big call to leave the Norwegian out after successive hattricks against Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest.
Kevin de Bryne seems certain to slot back into the XI having sat on the subs bench against Forest on Wednesday. Julian Alvarez could also keep his place after his two-goal showing against the Tricky Trees. Jack Grealish is inching towards a return, though Saturday’s game against his boyhood club could come too soon.
Aston Villa are averaging less than a goal per game this season (0.80), which makes them the fifth worst performing team in the Premier League in that regard. It’s clear that their attack is misfiring, though their defensive standards have also slipped. Only a handful of teams have conceded more shots on target against per game than Villa (5.20).
Unsurprisingly, Man City rank highly for just about any metric you care to consider this season. The champions hold the league’s highest XG (2.55) and second-lowest xGA (0.75) behind Arsenal. City also possess the tightest shots against P/90 numbers in the division (7.00).
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Creating and converting chances have been major areas of concern for Villa in the campaign’s opening exchanges. Philippe Coutinho (2.25), Emiliano Buendia (1.84) and Danny Ings (2.86) have been the team’s most prolific performers in terms of shots per 90, though they’ve notched just two goals between them.
Norwegian sensation Erling Haaland is already terrorizing Premier League defences. The 22-year-old is the leader for both shots (5.06) and shots on target (2.53) per 90 for City, and those numbers seem to climb with every fresh appearance. He should be half decent when he settles in.
Player Goals and Assists
Danny Ings hit the Villains’ first goal of the season against Everton on the opening day. Ollie Watkins’ effort was an early deadlock-breaker in an eventual defeat to Palace and Douglas Luis scored directly from a corner in Villa’s loss to Arsenal on Wednesday.
Limelight-stealing striker Erling Haaland has chipped in with 47.36% of City’s total Premier League goals himself this season, but look at the supply line offered by his supporting cast. Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva have already posted a combined eight assists this term.
Aston Villa Cards
Steven Gerrard likes his midfielders to play with bite – something that’s reflected in Villa’s card stats. Steely Scot John McGinn and his younger partner in crime Jacob Ramsey have collected two bookings each. Both players are unlikely to hold back at Villa Park on Saturday.
City’s key creators Bernardo Silva (1.47), Phil Foden (1.46) and Kevin de Bruyne (1.19) are routinely on the receiving end of some rough and tumble. Expect McGinn, Ramsey and Boubacar Kamara to aim a few kicks in that trio’s direction on Saturday as they attempt to disrupt their passing patterns.
Match-Ups to Watch:
John McGinn vs Phil Foden
Jacob Ramsey vs Bernardo Silva
Boubacar Kamara vs Kevin de Bruyne
Man City Cards
Manchester City are masters of football’s dark arts and Pep Guardiola’s love of a tactical foul or two is well established, especially when his team are on the cusp of being countered. Joao Cancelo and Rodri are usually among the first to “take one for the team”, even if the Spaniard’s disciplinary record is unblemished so far.
The stats show that Villa’s most potent foulers also rank among their players likeliest to be on the receiving end of infringements themselves. The numbers suggest that Jacob Ramsey (2.16), John McGinn (1.96) and Boubacar Kamara (1.88) will want to create battle-like conditions in midfield on Saturday so watch their duels with their engine-room counterparts with interest. That includes Joao Cancelo, who is often instructed to join the fight more centrally from the flank.
Match-Ups to Watch:
Rodri vs John McGinn
Joao Cancelo vs Jakub Ramsey
Rodri vs Boubacar Kamara