Aston Villa face a tricky test on Saturday afternoon, with Manchester City traveling to Villa Park anxious for all three points (10 a.m. ET, live on NBCSN or watch live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).
The visitors arrive in Birmingham on the back of three impressive victories: 3-0 at Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League, last week’s 4-1 win over rivals Manchester United, and a 5-0 thumping of Wigan in the midweek Capital One Cup match. That’s 12 goals scored to just one conceded in the last three matches, which won’t do much to help Villa’s confidence. Nor will the knowledge that City have scored the most goals in the league — again, 12 — while conceding four.
A quick glance at the table might make one think Villa shouldn’t be too concerned. After all, they’ve scored six goals in five matches, have two wins and beat Norwich City 1-0 their last time out. But see, that win was the first time Villa have kept a clean sheet in 2013. To call the defense “shaky” would be like calling the 1960 earthquake in Chile a “tremor.” Add to that the news that Christian Benteke, who’s scored 2/3 of Villa’s league goals this season, is out for six weeks, and you’ve got a squad just hoping they’ll get through this one without conceding eight goals.
Manchester City may be thinking ahead to the midweek Champions League clash against Bayern Munich, but their lineup is far from weak. Just two changes from the derby: Jesus Navas and Sergio Aguero are replaced by James Milner and Edin Dzeko, with a last minute lineup change dropping Navas to the bench in favor of Samir Nasri. Meanwhile, in addition to Benteke, Villa also miss Gabriel Agbonlahor due to injury.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Clark, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Luna, Delph, Sylla, Kozak
Subs: Steer, Bennett, Helenius, Albrighton, Bowery, Tonev, Lowton
Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov; Nasri, Fernandinho, Toure, Milner; Negredo, Dzeko.
Subs: Pantilimon, Richards, Lescott, Clichy, Garcia, Navas, Jovetic