Manchester City will look to build on their League Cup semi-final win over Everton by trying to progress in the FA Cup when they take on Aston Villa on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side went into Wednesday’s second leg against Everton 2-1 and fell further behind when Ross Barkley opened the scoring early on. But a wonderful second-half display in which Pellegrini made some bold alterations to his team’s shape saw City turn the tie around, and they will now face Liverpool at Wembley next month.
Vila remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, 10 points adrift of safety, but they managed to hold City to a 0-0 draw when the two sides met at Villa Park back in November, Remi Garde’s first match in charge of the club.
They have conceded just one goal in their last four games and are showing signs of improvement.
"The game against Manchester City is a big opportunity for us," Garde said on Friday. "We are in a good moment. We lack a bit of confidence in front of goal, but I'm pleased we're not conceding too many goals. That's important."
City have won the last three FA Cup matches between the two sides, including a resounding 3-0 win in 2011 en route to their first major trophy in 35 years.
They are on course to win four trophies this term, but Pellegrini insists he is taking things game by game.
"[Winning the quadruple] is not a realistic target," he said. "We have to look at Aston Villa. If we don't beat them, it is all over."
Date: Saturday, 30 January
Kick-off: 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET
TV Listings: Highlights on BBC Match of the Day (UK)
West Brom 0-0 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 2-0 Wycombe (FA Cup replay)
Aston Villa 1-1 Leicester
Aston Villa 1-0 Crystal Palace
Wycombe 1-1 Aston Villa (FA Cup)
Manchester City 3-1 Everton (League Cup)
West Ham United 2-2 Manchester City
Manchester City 4-0 Crystal Palace
Everton 0-0 Manchester City
Norwich City 0-3 Manchester City (FA Cup)
Garde will be without Alan Hutton and Carlos Sanchez, who both have hamstring problems. Gabriel Agbonlahor could be involved again after recovering from injury.
Predicted XI (4-3-3): Bunn; Richards, Okore, Lescott, Cissokho; Veretout, Gueye, Westwood; Gil, Kozack, Ayew
Kevin De Bruyne could be out for up to 10 weeks having suffered a knee injury against Everton. Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala, Wilfried Bony and Samir Nasri remain sidelined.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Sagna, Otamendi, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernando, Delph; Navas, Silva, Sterling; Aguero
Players To Watch
Aston Villa: Micah Richards
Micah Richards left City this summer on a free transfer, ending a nine–year association with the club, in which he played 245 games.
He was a firm fans’ favourite at the club but fell out of favour after a series of injuries saw his form adversely affected.
Having been one of City’s best players in 2011/12, the season they won the title for the first time in 44 years, he eventually found himself with limited playing time before a loan switch to Fiorentina came about.
This summer, with his contract expired, he left City for Villa.
It’s a move that has worked out superbly.
This season, playing predominantly at centre-half, the 26-year-old has been one of Villa’s best performers.
Manchester City: Fabian Delph
Former Villa man Fabian Delph, 25, is likely to start for City and will face a hostile reception.
His summer move caused consternation among Villa fans after Delph, who was club captain, assured them he wouldn’t leave. Ultimately, the lure of a move to a title-chasing side proved too much.
Many expected him to struggle for games at City, but he’s been a key squad member this season. Not once has he looked out of place when he’s played, offering City energy and driving runs from midfield. At just £8 million, he's proven an absolute bargain.
How he handles the pressure of a return could be key.
Key Battle: Joleon Lescott vs. Sergio Aguero
One of the defining aspects of City’s game in recent weeks has been the return to form and fitness of Sergio Aguero, who now looks to have reached his optimum level once again.
He’ll be up against former team-mate Joleon Lescott on Saturday.
Lescott, a superb defender in his prime, lacks pace and mobility, weaknesses Aguero often exploits in opponents, and given the run of form he’s in, it could be Villa’s downfall.
Aguero looked superb at West Ham last weekend, and on Wednesday against Everton, where he scored a superb winner with his head, he was sublime.
Odds (via Odds Shark)
Aston Villa: +500
Manchester City: -200
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.
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