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Saturday January 22, 2011Match Preview: Aston Villa v Manchester City

By Rhonda Richards | In Match Reports - Away Games

Manchester City travel to out-of-sorts Aston Villa mere weeks after Roberto Mancini’s men trounced the Midlanders 4-0 – and they’ll be confident of another three points.

Gerard Houllier’s side have suffered for consistency all season and currently sit 17th in the Premier League, whilst City could go top if results go their way.

The £24 million signing of Darren Bent from Sunderland will give the Villa squad a lift, and Houllier looks set to hand the England international his first start for the club.

Mancini may also call upon his own recent striking addition, Edin Dzeko, and the former Wolsfburg man has already looked like a valuable component at the City of Manchester – chalking up an assist in his side’s 4-3 win over Wolves.

READING BETWEEN THE LINES

All eyes will be on both sides’ attack, but the key difference could be in defence. Whilst City have conceded 19 thus far, 39 goals have hit the back of Villa’s net already. Villa’s inconsistency is highlighted in their last three games with a win, a draw and a loss, whilst City are unbeaten in seven games and have scored 16 goals in that time.

City also have one of the best away records in the league this term, losing just two of their 11 games on the road.

KEY PLAYERS

Inevitably for Villa, the key player will be Bent. We’ll soon be in the business end of the Premier League season and Houllier will be hoping that Bent can fire his side to safety, and Bent’s goal-scoring record suggests he could be the man to do it. They need it too – their strikers have scored just five goals between them all campaign.

For City, Carlos Tevez has already netted 14 times this season and when he’s on form, he’s unstoppable. Dzeko linked up with his new teammates as though he had been at the club for years, and he may take some of the pressure off City’s diminutive Argentina international.

There is also the possibility for another return to former clubs for several players including Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland – though neither player appeared in the January clash. Likewise, James Milner and Gareth Barry could line up against his former side.

ASTON VILLA TEAM NEWS

Bent is in line for his debut, whilst Jean Makoun’s work permit issues have been resolved and the former Lyon player could make his bow for the side.

Lightning quick winger Ashley Young returns from suspension, though Emile Heskey sits out the remainder of his ban.

MANCHESTER CITY NEWS

Mario Balotelli is missing due to his knee injury whilst Dzeko is available after being unavailable for the FA Cup clash.

MICAH WATCH

Micah has recovered from the back injury that ruled him out of recent games and is in contention for the fixture. He’s been in fine form in recent months and will be hopeful of making an impression against the side against which he scored his first senior goal