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Can City reignite their title charge against the division’s basement side? @markbooth_mcfc picks out five things to look out for at the Etihad Stadium…
By Manuel Pellegrini’s own admission, City had not fully recovered from their Wembley exertions when they turned up at Anfield on Wednesday.
Second best for long stretches of the game, it was a night to forget for the Blues as they succumbed to a trio of consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time in seven years.
Disappointing though it was, at least there were mitigating circumstances to point to and, following on from two of the best performances of the season, in Kyiv and in the Capital One Cup final, City’s recent form in all competitions isn’t as bleak as it has been painted in some quarters.
An emphatic victory over Aston Villa on Saturday is all it will take to refuel the belief that Pellegrini’s men will be in the title conversation in the final weeks of the season.
Pellegrini has fielded what many consider to be his strongest-possible XI for the past three matches in Ukraine, Wembley and Anfield, but he may be tempted to rotate a little on Saturday.
With Wilfried Bony now back fully fit, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Ivorian lead the line, while Jesus Navas has only started one of the last three since returning from his hamstring injury.
Elsewhere, Eliaquim Mangala could be an option in the heart of defence, Yaya Toure is back from the foot injury which kept him out of the Liverpool game and Pellegrini is never shy of changing his full-backs.
You’ll be able to find out just how much Manuel decides to tinker at around 2pm here on mcfc.co.uk.
Someone in the top four is going to lose points again this weekend, so it’s an opportunity to make gains on those above us.
Spurs entertain Arsenal at White Hart Lane in Saturday’s early game, giving City the opportunity to potentially close the gap on the Gunners to a point, or to move within four of Spurs.
It’s worth remembering that we also have a game in hand on all of those around us…
Manchester United’s win over Watford on Wednesday moved them onto the same number of points as their city rivals, having played a game more.
Following on from our defeat at Anfield, more anxious supporters were posting on social media that we should be sweating our Champions League place rather than worrying about finishing top of the tree.
However, Manuel was quick to dismiss this pessimism in his pre-match press conference, urging that his team will only think about winning the next match and ultimately lifting the title while it’s still a possibility.
With 33 points still to play for, City will not go quietly into the good night.
Although football is a game played on grass rather than paper, all of the statistical precedents appear to be pointing in the direction of a home win on Saturday.
Villa have taken just three points from a possible 39 in their last 13 Premier League away games, have scored just five in their last ten road trips and have failed to score in six of their last eight matches against City.
On top of that, the Blues have won seven and lost just one of their last nine games against the Midlands outfit, meaning, if recent history is anything to go by, City couldn’t have picked much more preferential opponents as they look to arrest their recent Premier League slide.