Aston Villa vs. Manchester City: Key Battles To Look Out For

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 3, 2013

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City: Key Battles To Look Out For

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    Monday's English Premier League game pits Aston Villa against Manchester City in a game of very different consequences for each team.

    Villa will look at the weekend's results and smile after Norwich City, Reading, Southampton, Newcastle United and Wigan Athletic lost, while City will have seen the gap at the top open to 15 points and remain determined to stay in touch.

    Here are five key battles to watch as the game unfolds.

Yaya Toure vs. Fabian Delph

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    Yaya Toure is bang in-form and opposing midfielders will be running scared.

    The Ivorian beast is an unrivaled physical presence in the heart of Manchester City's formation and provides the box-to-box threat Roberto Mancini needs to break down stubborn defences.

    You can expect Paul Lambert to be cautious in his tactics and in addressing the Toure problem, committing Fabian Delph in a one vs. one matchup.

    The former Leeds midfielder will likely partner Ashley Westwood in a holding pivot and he's the only one with the athleticism to stand a chance of stopping the UEFA Champions League winner.

James Milner vs. Nathan Baker

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    We're dealing with two managers who chop and change their starting XIs at will here, but James Milner's form should see him start against his former club.

    Paul Lambert has a choice between Nathan Baker and Joe Bennett, and it's fair to say the academy product has looked a more comfortable fit on the left in recent weeks.

    He'll be taken up and down the line by the energetic Milner all game long. He needs to stay on his feet, keep his eyes on the ball and use his head to win this personal battle.

Christian Benteke vs. Defence

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    Christian Benteke is, for obvious reasons, Aston Villa's primary threat during this game.

    It was just his first start for the Midlands club when Villa ran out 3-2 winners at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, and he put in a pretty decent shift alongside Gabby Agbonlahor.

    Since then, he's grown immeasurably, drifting across the forward line, linking play well and scoring in streaks. He will probe the City defensive line for weaknesses and test them, trying each and every avenue until he finds a player he can bully.

Gabby Agbonlahor vs. Pablo Zabaleta

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    Fans seated on the sideline will be in for a treat on Monday as two of the hardest-working players in world football go head-to-head.

    Gabby Agbonlahor currently occupies a spot on the left side for Paul Lambert, while Pablo Zabaleta is an energetic, relentless presence on Roberto Mancini's right.

    The two will chase and harry each other all the way up and down the field in a truly physical battle, and it may well be that Agbonlahor's searing pace requires the Argentine to be a little more cautious than usual.

Paul Lambert vs. Roberto Mancini

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    it's not always the case in the English Premier League, but Monday will see a battle ensue between two true tacticians in Paul Lambert and Roberto Mancini.

    Both managers have dabbled with different formations. They're not afraid to try something new and play a very reactive game throughout.

    If something's not working, expect a quick change. From there we'll see countless counter-changes as the two managers remain eager to get the better of one another.

    A proper touchline duel.