Manchester City will host Aston Villa today in their last game of the season with the Premier League title hanging in the balance.
Manchester City head into the final matchday of the 2021-22 Premier League season with a one-point lead over Liverpool. Pep Guardiola’s side will need to overcome the challenge posed by Liverpool legend Steve Gerrard’s Aston Villa team.
Meanwhile, the Merseysiders will take on Wolverhampton Wanderers, which could be a tricky affair as well. But with just the Premier League title left to fight for, City will be desperate to wrap their hands around the trophy.
But things won’t be that straightforward for Guardiola’s men. Without further ado, let’s take a look at five reasons why Manchester City could drop points against Aston Villa.
#5 Immense pressure on Manchester City
Manchester City have the most expensive squad in all of Europe. They have world-class players in each and every position and are a well-oiled machine. City have excelled domestically under Guardiola but have always fell short of winning the Champions League.
This season, they were knocked out in the semi-finals by Real Madrid in dramatic fashion. City are yet to win silverware this term. They looked to be cruising to the Premier League title as they held a 12-point lead over Liverpool at the top of the table in February.
While Liverpool have been dominant ever since, City have stumbled on occasion. They haven’t really fared very well under pressure and the final matchday of the season could prove to be a tense outing for the Cityzens.
#4 Aston Villa’s compact midfield
Aston Villa need a strong start to the game. They cannot afford to let Manchester City find the back of the net in the early part of the first half. Steven Gerrard uses a very compact midfield formation. It’s either a 4-4-2 diamond or a 4-3-21.
Gerrard is likely to field Marvelous Nakamba, John McGinn and Douglas Luiz in central midfield today. Philippe Coutinho will operate ahead of them and be the creator-in-chief of Villa.
Due to the fact that Villa have so many bodies in the centre of the pitch, Manchester City will find it extremely difficult to play through them. The likes of Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva are going to find it really difficult to create space.
#3 Manchester City have no number 9 to drag the Villa defense
Following on from the previous point, Manchester City have struggled against compact defences occasionally this term. It boils down to the fact that City have no out-and-out striker who is capable of making runs and upsetting the opposition defence’s rhythm.
As a result, City’s problems start in midfield but do not end there. Finding a way through Villa’s midfield is one thing but cutting through their narrow defence is going to be another ordeal altogether.
Villa are comfortable sitting deep and absorbing the pressure. They will look to hit City on the counter and have the personnel to do some real damage.
#2 Aston Villa’s away record
Aston Villa have done pretty decently away from this season. They’ve won three, lost two and drawn one of their last six away games. They’ve beaten the likes of Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Brighton & Hove Albion, Burnley, Leeds United and Everton away from home this term.
Villa have not exactly struggled on the road this season and they will be charged up to throw a spanner in Manchester City’s works today. Manchester City struggled to break Villa down at the Etihad in the reverse fixture and it took a very special Bernardo Silva volley for them to win the game.
#1 Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings can get behind Manchester City’s defense
Aston Villa cannot be entirely defensive-minded against a team like Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s men don’t tire of releasing wave after wave of attack on their opposition. If they are allowed to do so, they will find a way to break Villa down.
But Steven Gerrard has a number of talented individuals in his side who can take the game to Manchester City. In Kyle Walker’s absence, West Ham United constantly got in behind City’s defence in their 2-2 draw last weekend.
Gerrard is certain to ask both Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins to make runs in behind the last defender. The likes of Ruben Dias and John Stones will miss out and City are likely to be forced to start Fernandinho in defence.
If Philippe Coutinho can feed his attackers with precision, Aston Villa could be devastatingly sharp against a depleted Manchester City defence. That could very well lead to City’s undoing.