Manchester City welcome Aston Villa to the Etihad and coach Roberto Mancini will want nothing less than a strong performance and a powerful score, against a side already facing a relegation battle. City are second in the league, with 25 points from 11 games. However, the defending champions are not in the best of form at present, with only two wins from the last five games (in all competitions).
The Villans, meanwhile, are 17th with nine points from 11 games (six of which have been defeats) but Paul Lambert's men have won two of their last three games, including what could prove a vital away win against Sunderland.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 3pm GMT. Catch live text updates via Gamecast on Soccernet and live commentary of the full game, from 2.45pm GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra. Catch up with the result of the game on Final Score on BBC One and BBC One HD at 4.30pm GMT and round-off all the day's action with Match of the Day on BBC One and BBC One HD at 10.30pm GMT.
Champions Manchester City have had a disappointing time of things lately. The good news is Mancini's men are still in touch with arch-rivals and league leaders Manchester United; the Red Devils lead by two points. However, the slip-up at Upton Park (City drew 0-0 with West Ham, while United recorded a morale-boosting 2-1 win at Old Trafford against Arsenal) was far from ideal.
As if that weren't enough, Mancini knows he must also make up for what is likely to be a group stage exit from the Champions League for the second straight year. Granted, the Citizens are still learning at that level and they were drawn in a very tough group. However, they did not perform as well as they should have and the double-header against Dutch champions Ajax Amsterdam was a case in point.
The club does have some form coming into this game - they beat Spurs 2-1 at the Etihad - after a dramatic late goal from Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko.
Meanwhile, Villa are all at sea in the Premier League and the distinct lack of quality in the squad is beginning to make itself felt. Yes... Lambert's men did stretch United in their last game (Sir Alex Ferguson's side eventually won by the odd goal in five) and beat Sunderland, away, in early November. But much more, in terms of individual and team performance, is needed if the club is to pull off another miraculous season in the Premier League.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W D D W L
- Last Match: Manchester City 2 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L W W D L
- Last Match: Aston Villa 2 - 3 Manchester United
The hosts welcome back England defender Joleon Lescott and that will please Mancini. City have been guilty of poor defending in recent games, with too many goals conceded from set pieces. The addition of Lescott, who should slot straight back alongside last season's partner Vincent Kompany should, theoretically, tighten that leak. In addition, the France duo of midfielder Samir Nasri and left back Gael Clichy are also likely to be fit.
England midfielders James Milner and Jack Rodwell are both recovering from hamstring injuries and could be in line for an appearance, at some stage, to help them recover fitness. However, it is unlikely either will start. Their international team-mate Micah Richards, however, remains unavailable.
Joe Hart is England and City's undisputed No 1 but he appears short of confidence at the moment and Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic's wonder goal in the midweek friendly between the nations would not have helped matters. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old will start this game. Argentine utility man Pablo Zabaleta is available to fill in for Richards on the right but given this is a home match against weaker opposition, Mancini is likely to field Brazil right-back Maicon, a far more attacking option, in that position. Clichy, Lescott and captain Kompany make up the rest of what is surely Mancini's strongest possible defensive line.
Ivory Coast star Yaya Toure is the first name on the team sheet for every game and there is no reason for that to change today. The dynamic midfielder is likely to be given licence to attack and make his trademark powerful runs, as Mancini will look to establish control over the game as soon as possible. England midfielder Gareth Barry will play the anchorman role.
Up front, Spain's David Silva, Nasri and Argentina's Carlos Tevez will support the latter's international team mate, Sergio Aguero, the lone striker. There is a small chance that last week's hero, Dzeko, may get a start for this game, particularly since the former Wolfsburg man has been talking of wanting more playing time.
Probable Line-Up: Hart; Maicon, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Y Toure, Barry; Silva, Tevez, Nasri; Agüero
Paul Lambert has a number of injury problems to contend with and sees Chris Herd, Charles N'Zogbia and Nathan Baker injured. The really big blow, though, will be the possibility that big-name star Darren Bent may not be fit. The 28-year-old has scored only three goals in 11 appearances this season but he remains the focal point of the club's attacking play.
Fortunately though, Lambert has a replacement in Belgian international Christian Benteke. The 21-year-old Kinshasa-born striker was in the news recently for confessing admiration for Villa's rivals Arsenal but in the absence of Bent, he will lead the attacking line. Villa will likely play a counter-attacking game and look to absorb pressure before using the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Benteke to try and hurt their hosts.
Probable Line-Up: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Stevens; Weimann, Westwood, Ireland, Bannan; Agbonlahor; Benteke
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