Fair to say, it’s been an eventful week off the pitch for Manchester City, so they’ll be delighted to be back in action.
On Monday morning, the Premier League charged Man City with 115 breaches of their rules, the culmination of a four-year investigation, but it could be another four years until this whole case is concluded.
This compounded the misery of Sunday afternoon’s defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with the champions beaten 1-0 by Spurs.
Pep Guardiola’s team have now lost all five visits to New White Hart Lane without scoring, despite accumulating an xG score of 9.79 across these matches.
While Man City’s lawyers are set for a busy schedule, their footballers will be too, seeking to keep pace with league-leaders Arsenal, who they face in an eagerly anticipated clash on Wednesday.
Before then, will the Sky Blues make it eight successive home wins over Aston Villa, having scored a total 24 goals in those seven previous clashes?
On the final day of last season, Villa actually led 2-0 at the Etihad, only for Man City to roar back and pinch the title from Liverpool.
Then, in September, the Claret and Blue Army held the champions to a 1-1 draw at Villa Park, thanks to Leon Bailey equaliser.
Back then, Steven Gerrard was in charge but, since he was replaced by Unai Emery, Villa’s form has been generally excellent.
Emery won five of his first seven games in charge, although his team were beaten 4-2 by Leicester last weekend, in an uncharacteristically shambolic defensive display.
Nevertheless, Aston Villa start the weekend 11th, six places higher than when Gerrard was dispensed with in mid-October.
Here, Emery do his former club Arsenal a massive favour in the title race by causing a big upset at the Etihad?
Manchester City team news
Last Sunday’s defeat at Spurs was the first time Erling Braut Håland had featured in any football match and not had a single shot since September 2020.
That day, Borussia Dortmund smashed Duisburg 5-0 in the DFB-Pokal, with Håland making 117 appearances for club and country subsequently, managing a shot in all them, until last weekend.
One of the Norwegian’s 31 goals so far this season came at Villa Park, so he’ll be confident of ending his one-game draught here.
Pep Guardiola actually deployed Julián Álvarez in a 4-4-2 last weekend, which clearly didn’t work.
It seems likely that İlkay Gündoğan and Kevin De Bruyne will return to the XI, after both were weirdly on the bench.
Rico Lewis was picked at left-back against Tottenham, with the 18 year old set to keep his place, possibly back on the right.
New singing Máximo Perrone will be hoping for his debut, having arrived from Vélez Sarsfield.
Predicted XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Lewis, Akanji, Dias, Aké; Rodri, Gündoğan, De Bruyne; Silva, Grealish, Håland.
Aston Villa team news
Fit again Lucas Digne will keep his place at left-back, chosen over Álex Moreno, while Ashley Young is set to be chosen over Matty Cash on the other side once again.
Douglas Luiz spent two seasons at Man City, making zero appearances, so will be desperate to show them what they missed out on.
Up front, Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins are Unai Emery’s favoured front two, both of whom have scored against Man City in the past.
Predicted XI (4-4-2): Martínez; Young, Konsa, Mings, Digne; Douglas Luiz, Kamara, Buendía, Ramsey; Bailey, Watkins.