Stuttering Manchester City are clinging on to the final Champions League spot as they prepare to face bottom club Aston Villa at the Etihad.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have lost their last three Premier League matches, and neighbours Manchester United have drawn level with them on 47 points in pursuit of fourth place.
City did win the Capital One Cup last weekend to ensure that Pellegrini has a trophy to mark his last season in charge, but they fared less well in the rematch against Liverpool on Wednesday, being comprehensively beaten 3-0 at Anfield.
If City could pick a fixture to get them back into form, it would surely be Villa at home; not only are the visitors rooted to the bottom of the table, but City have also won each of the last eight matches between these two sides at the Etihad.
Aston Villa’s 3-1 defeat to Everton on Tuesday evening was their third consecutive Premier League defeat, and brought up their half century of goals conceded in this miserable season.
Sunderland, Norwich and Newcastle are all eight points above Villa, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they could catch them with 10 games still to play. However, the limp and lifeless performances that Remi Garde’s side continue to put in are sapping the hope from even the most optimistic of fans.
The Midlands side are winless on the road since the opening day, and are the division’s lowest scorers with just 22 goals to their name all season.
Yaya Toure is set to return for the hosts after missing Wednesday’s defeat, but Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph are all absent for City.
Garde could put his faith in Rudy Gestede up front after the big frontman scored their consolation against Everton on Tuesday, but Villa remain without Carlos Sanchez, Jack Grealish, Libor Kozak, Adama Traore and Jordan Amavi.
League Position: Manchester City – 4th (47 pts); Aston Villa – 20th (16 pts)
Previous Meeting: Aston Villa 0-0 Manchester City (November 8, 2015)
Form: Manchester City – WDWLLL; Aston Villa – DLWLLL
Key Men: Manchester City – Sergio Aguero; Aston Villa – Rudy Gestede
Shoot Says: Manchester City 3-0 Aston Villa