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Jan 30, 2016 at 3pm UK at Villa Park
Aston Villa
Man CityManchester City
FT(HT: 0-2)
Iheanacho (4', 24' pen., 74'), Sterling (75')

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Manchester City

Sports Mole casts its eye ahead to Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie between two Premier League teams at opposite ends of the table, Aston Villa and Manchester City.

After booking their place in the Capital One Cup final, Manchester City's attention turns to the FA Cup on Saturday as they travel to Premier League strugglers Aston Villa.

Although it has been far from plain sailing, Manuel Pellegrini's side are still in four competitions and eyeing the possibility of a historic quadruple this season.


Remi Garde, Manager of Aston Villa gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park on November 8, 2015 in Birmingham, England. © Getty Images

The New Year did not start well for Villa and Remi Garde with a crushing defeat at the team closest to them in the Premier League, Sunderland, but since then they are unbeaten in five matches.

Two of those, granted, were against League Two opposition in Wycombe Wanderers, who they needed a replay to dispatch and reach this stage of the competition.

League performances have improved of late, though, and four points from two home matches against Crystal Palace and current leaders Leicester City followed by a goalless draw away at West Bromwich Albion is not relegation form.

However, there is a double-digit gap to safety for the Villans and it would still be a miraculous escape if they could beat the drop, especially with sides outside the bottom three like Swansea City and Bournemouth improving of late.

Given Villa's plight at the foot of the table, it is surprising to see that they are yet to sign a player in the January transfer window. Five players have left either permanently or on loan - the latest being Philippe Senderos - but none have arrived and there has been little speculation suggesting that any late moves might be made in the remaining four days of the window.

Villa are seven-time winners of the FA Cup, last triumphing in 1957, and they have also been on the losing side four times in the final, most recently last season when they went down 4-0 at Wembley to holders Arsenal.

Recent form: LDWDWD


Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring the winner during the League Cup game between Manchester City and Everton on January 27, 2016© Getty Images

Talk continues over the future of Pellegrini, but his side are still fighting on four fronts after overturning a two-goal deficit on Wednesday night in the League Cup.

Ross Barkley's early goal put Everton 3-1 up in the tie, but City soon responded through Fernandinho's deflected shot before Kevin De Bruyne came off the bench in the second half to ignite a fightback and send City through to a final with Liverpool next month.

De Bruyne's goal and assist won the tie for City, but the night ended with a bitter taste for the club as the Belgian wideman fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered off with suspected knee and ankle ligament damage.

The deciding third goal was expertly headed home by Argentine frontman Sergio Aguero, who also bagged a brace in the 2-2 draw at West Ham United on Saturday and now has seven goals in seven games.

Keeping Aguero fit is absolutely vital if City are going to take the lead in the Premier League title race and mount a better challenge in the Champions League, although a last-16 draw against Dynamo Kiev was certainly favourable when runaway Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain could have come out of the pot.

Like Villa, City are yet to do any meaningful business this month and the injury to De Bruyne could force the club's hand in the final days before the window shuts.

The Citizens have won this competition five times, but only one of those successes has come in recent years since they became one of England's modern giants - a 1-0 win over Stoke City in 2011. They reached the final two years later, but were stunned by Wigan Athletic, who went on to be relegated from the top flight just days later.

Recent form: LWDWDW

Team News

Kevin De Bruyne screams in pain during the League Cup game between Manchester City and Everton on January 27, 2016© Getty Images

De Bruyne was initially expected to miss around six weeks of action, but the player himself said tonight that 10 weeks was a more realistic estimate, so do not expect to see the Belgian playing again until at least April.

Pellegrini is sure to make changes and De Bruyne probably would not have started anyway, but his loss for the bulk of the rest of the season is a huge blow as City chase an unlikely quadruple.

In-form Aguero should be given a rest and Wilfried Bony might be able to return and play for the first time since aggravating his calf at the start of the month. Aleksandar Kolarov and Eliaquim Mangala are also close to returning to full fitness, but captain Vincent Kompany and Samir Nasri remain out.

Villa are waiting to hear on the fitness of Rudy Gestede after the striker injured his hamstring and he is unlikely to feature this weekend, so Libor Kozak could continue in attack and be joined by Scott Sinclair.

Changes will be made elsewhere and Jack Grealish could again start in the Cup as he tries to prove his worth to Garde.

Villa possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Richards, Okore, Clark, Richardson; Bacuna, Veretout, Westwood, Grealish; Sinclair, Kozak

City possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Zabaleta, Otamendi, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernando, Delph; Navas, Iheanacho, Sterling; Bony

Head To Head

A run of three straight City wins in this fixture came to an end in November when Villa surprisingly held Pellegrini's side in what was Garde's first game in charge.

These two have met 10 times in the FA Cup and City are unbeaten in the last four contests, winning the most recent meeting 3-0 in March 2011 thanks to goals from Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and David Silva.

The Dugout Podcast

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We say: Villa 1-3 City

A repeat of the goalless draw in the league seems unlikely. Even without De Bruyne and having had less rest, City should be too strong here, with avoiding relegation the much more pressing issue for Villa.

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