Much has been made of City's defensive woes against set pieces and their inability to keep clean sheets. (Via soccernet.espn.go.com.) This is probably due in part to City's status as defending champions in the Premiership. Because every goal scored against City has the chance to reconfigure the top of the table, they all make the highlight shows and thus are widely seen.
The statistics suggest that City is a better defensive side than highlights of Joe Hart bobbling a Steven Caulker header across his own line against Tottenham Hotspur would have you believe. (Via The Guardian.) City is tied with Stoke City for the lead in fewest goals conceded (10) in Premier League play. City has the third-best goal differential in the league (10), behind Manchester United (13) and Chelsea (12).
Speaking of United and Chelsea, the Sky Blues have not faced either of those powerful sides as yet. That may in part explain City's solid defensive statistics to date.
But those days of reckoning against the Premier League's other superpowers are coming.
Four days after Saturday's clash with Villa, City will face another stern Champions League test from Real Madrid. And four days after that, City is off to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in a fixture that will certainly have an impact on the championship race.
Which is why Saturday's match against Villa is a classic "trap game."
Villa is presently holding down 17th place in the Premier League table. The Villans are three points clear of relegation to date not so much for anything they have done. Rather, the dreadful form of Reading, Southampton and Queens Park Rangers can be credited for Aston Villa's relative safety.
Still, Villa gave Manchester United all it wanted over the weekend and beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light the week before. (Via espnfc.com.)
And while it is tempting to laugh away Capital One Cup ties, the fact remains that the last time these two sides met, Aston Villa trampled City in extra time. (Via espnfc.com.)
Given that City will face Real Madrid, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United in the three weeks following Saturday's tilt with Aston Villa, it is not difficult to imagine City looking ahead.
On Saturday, then, City would be well-served to stay focused on the opposition immediately before them.