Aston Villa vs Manchester City Preview: City Premier pick-me-up against Villa
Manchester City have the chance to put their Champions League concerns to one side and move within two points of Premier League leaders Chelsea when they travel to Aston Villa on Saturday.
London: Manchester City have the chance to put their Champions League concerns to one side and move within two points of Premier League leaders Chelsea when they travel to Aston Villa on Saturday.
After losing at Bayern Munich in their opening European tie this season and drawing 1-1 with Roma in midweek, City are facing an uphill task to qualify from their Champions League group.
The Premier League champions are also off the pace in the English top flight, having won only three of their six matches so far this season and dropping points with a defeat by Stoke and draws with Arsenal and Chelsea.
City head to the Midlands just one point above Villa, who began the season impressively before sustaining back-to-back 3-0 defeats by Arsenal and Chelsea.
While City`s results at Eastlands have been unconvincing, they have been far more impressive on their travels, collecting seven points from a possible nine.
A 3-2 loss at Villa Park this time last season underlined City`s defensive failings in the early part of the campaign as they took just one point from their first three away matches.
But midfielder James Milner, who joined City from Villa in 2010, thinks Manuel Pellegrini`s team have shown they are well beyond those issues.
The England international, 28, also feels it is vital City keep pace at the top of the table heading into the international break.
Chelsea face Arsenal on Sunday and City know that another defeat could see them trailing Jose Mourinho`s team by eight points. "They (Villa) have started pretty well this season so it`s another tough game for us," said Milner.
"But our form away from home has been pretty good so far this season and hopefully we can go there and get a good result before the international break.
"It`s always frustrating if you don`t get the right results before the internationals, then you are waiting two weeks to put it right," he added.
"So it`s important that we sign off this section of games with a win and keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top."
City manager Pellegrini`s attacking options have been boosted by the return to fitness of Montenegro striker Stevan Jovetic, who came off the bench on Tuesday.
Winger Samir Nasri is out for a month after undergoing surgery on a groin problem earlier this week but midfielder Fernando could be in contention after several weeks out with a similar injury.
Aston Villa will include Christian Benteke in the squad for the first time after a six-month injury lay-off.
The Belgian striker is back in the reckoning after scoring in the Under 21`s 2-0 victory over Bolton on Monday following an agonising Achilles tendon injury in training that saw him miss the World Cup.
"I heard the snap from where I was standing," recalled Villa manager Paul Lambert. "I knew it was a major one there, but it wasn`t just that it was losing Libor Kozak as well with a broken leg.
"Losing both number nines (strikers) was a problem. The start we`ve made has been really good but to have done it without a number nine was excellent. Benteke is coming back now, we are getting there.
"He`s only done it for a year and a bit. When he starts to do it for a bit longer then you think `Yes`. He`s not done it yet, he`s not the finished article, potentially he can be one of the best.
"He`s a young guy with a long way to go in his career, but certainly when he`s on his game he`s definitely up there," the Scottish boss added.
But Villa remain without captain Ron Vlaar due to a calf problem.