MX23RW : Saturday, June 12 20:46:41| >> :120:15994:15994:
Mar 1, 2020 at 4.30pm UK at Wembley Stadium
Attendance: 82,145
Aston Villa
Man CityManchester City
Samatta (41')
FT(HT: 1-2)
Aguero (20'), Rodri (30')

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's 2019-20 EFL Cup final as Premier League strugglers Aston Villa aim to dethrone two-time defending champions Manchester City.

The first major trophy of the 2019-20 season will be decided on Sunday when Aston Villa take on defending champions Manchester City in the EFL Cup final at Wembley.

Just seven weeks on from Man City winning the corresponding Premier League fixture 6-1, Villa will be looking to pull off a major shock in order to claim their first silverware since 1996.

Match preview

Manchester City players celebrate winning the EFL Cup final against Chelsea on February 24, 2019© Reuters

European matters have dominated the headlines surrounding Man City in recent weeks given their two-year ban for breaching Financial Fair Play rules and the famous victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

However, attention now comes back to the domestic game and, while it seems to be a case of when rather than if they will relinquish their hold on the Premier League title, there is no doubt that they remain the dominant force in cup competitions.

Including the Community Shield Man City have won seven of the last eight domestic cup finals available to top-flight teams and not since February 2018 - more than two years ago - have they been knocked out of the League or FA Cup, a run of 18 successive ties without elimination.

City have been especially dominant in this competition, lifting the trophy in each of the past two seasons and putting themselves within 90 minutes of a third successive crown - a feat only Liverpool, with four in a row between 1981 and 1984, have ever achieved before.

Indeed, Pep Guardiola's side are already only the third team to have reached three successive EFL Cup finals, and their stellar record stretches back even further with four of their six titles coming in the last six seasons.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts on February 26, 2020© Reuters

City have certainly not been guilty of taking his competition lightly, then, and in recent times that is no doubt down to the desire of Guardiola to win every trophy he can.

Sunday will be the Catalan's 25th final as a top-flight manager and he has won an incredible 20 of the previous 24, including all five of his Wembley appearances as Man City boss when silverware has been on the line.

Guardiola has also won the Champions League at Wembley during his Barcelona days and so enjoys a superb record at England's national stadium, although Aston Villa are no strangers to it either.

Despite a trophy drought which stretches back 24 years, Sunday will be Villa's fifth Wembley appearance in six seasons, most recently overcoming Derby County in the Championship playoff final last May.

Avoiding an immediate return to the second tier will still be the priority for many fans, but silverware is always welcome and there will be thousands who travel down from the Midlands in the hope that Villa can upset the odds and rekindle their affinity with this competition.

Jack Grealish in action for Aston Villa on February 22, 2020© Reuters

Sunday's showdown will be their ninth appearance in the League Cup final - a tally bettered only by Liverpool - while their record of five wins is only behind Liverpool and Man City in the all-time list.

Indeed, while there are a plethora of daunting recent statistics which Man City can boast in this competition, Villa still hold the distinction of being the team to have won more League Cup matches than any other team in history (140).

It is the more recent form which is likely to prove most relevant, though, and in those stakes it threatens to be a one-sided affair at Wembley.

Whereas City are going into the game off the back of that unforgettable late comeback win away to Real Madrid, Villa have lost their last three matches to sink to within one point of the relegation zone with 11 games of the league season remaining.

Indeed, Dean Smith's side have lost every game since booking their place in the final, although January's dramatic 2-1 triumph over Leicester City in the semi-finals, which sealed a 3-2 aggregate win, does provide cause for optimism that they can pull off another shock this weekend.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith celebrates after the match on January 1, 2019© Reuters

Villa's whole run to the final should give them belief, in fact, with a 6-1 hammering of Crewe Alexandra in the second round being followed by victories over Premier League opposition in the form of Brighton & Hove Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool, although the latter was against the Under-23s while Liverpool's senior team was at the Club World Cup.

Regardless, the history books will show a very difficult run to Wembley and so claiming the scalp of Man City too would complete a memorable EFL Cup campaign which, coupled with Premier League survival, would make for a hugely successful season.

Man City's own route to the final has been relatively straightforward with victories over Preston North End, Southampton and Oxford United before being drawn against local rivals Manchester United in the semi-finals.

A 3-1 triumph at Old Trafford in the first leg of that tie looked to have wrapped things up, but Guardiola's side were given a scare in the second leg and only scraped through after a 1-0 United win at the Etihad - City's first defeat in this competition since losing to the same opposition by the same scoreline in October 2016, ending a run of 16 successive wins.

City have not lost back-to-back League Cup games since 2010 and will be overwhelming favourites to avoid that fate this weekend, although Villa will be hoping for some kind of hangover from the euphoria of Wednesday's win at the Bernabeu.

Aston Villa EFL Cup form: WWWWDW
Aston Villa form (all competitions): DWWLLL

Man City EFL Cup form: WWWWL
Man City form (all competitions): WLLWWW

Team News

Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte goes down after sustaining an injury on February 26, 2020© Reuters

Man City's midweek success did come at a substantial cost, with Aymeric Laporte picking up a hamstring injury which is expected to keep him sidelined for up to a month.

Fernandinho, who performed admirably off the bench, is expected to come back into the side and partner Nicolas Otamendi at centre-back, with John Stones still seemingly out of favour.

Leroy Sane is City's only other injury absentee, although there is encouraging news on the German winger too as he gets ready to step up his recovery by featuring for the Under-23s.

Guardiola is expected to make changes to his side after naming a surprise XI against Real Madrid, with Sergio Aguero - scorer of five goals in his last three games against Villa - David Silva and Raheem Sterling among the other players likely to return to the side.

Joao Cancelo will also be pushing for a start, while cup goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is expected to replace Ederson between the sticks.

Aston Villa, meanwhile, will once again be without influential midfielder John McGinn, whose bid to recover from the ankle injury which has kept him out since December in time for this match has fallen just short.

Danny Drinkwater is also unavailable due to being cup-tied, while Smith must also decide whether to give the gloves to new first-choice Pepe Reina or semi-final hero Orland Nyland.

Anwar El Ghazi and Keinan Davis are expected to be available for selection, but Wesley and Tom Heaton remain long-term absentees.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Nyland; Konsa, Mings, Hause; Guilbert, Nakamba, Luiz, Targett; El Ghazi, Samatta, Grealish

Man City possible starting lineup:
Bravo; Cancelo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, D Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling

Head To Head

Man City have won seven and lost none of their last eight matches against Aston Villa in all competitions, scoring 26 goals and conceding just three during that time.

The most recent contest saw Aguero net a hat-trick as Man City equalled their biggest-ever win against Sunday's opponents, thrashing them 6-1 at Villa Park in January.

However, the Villans boast the superior League Cup head-to-head record with three wins to Man City's one by an aggregate score of 10-3, including a 4-2 triumph in the most recent such meeting in September 2012.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Aston Villa 0-3 Man City

Aston Villa have players who can rise to the Wembley occasion and will be looking for talisman Jack Grealish in particular to do that, but even then it looks a big ask for them to beat a side that thrashed them so convincingly less than two months ago.

Man City have been serial trophy winners in recent years and know how to get the job done in finals, and we are backing them for a comfortable passage to yet another EFL Cup crown at Wembley.

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Sergio Aguero and David Silva celebrate Manchester City's opening goal against Schalke 04 in the Champions League on February 20, 2019.
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