The final batch of games in hand are played during this week before the season finale this weekend; Manchester City host Aston Villa with the title looking likely to be heading to the Eithad.
A few weeks ago after their defeat to Liverpool and draw to Sunderland many had written Manchester City’s title hopes off, but Liverpool’s slip-up – literal in Gerrard’s case – against Chelsea has presented Pellegrini’s side with a chance of the title if they get 4 points from their remaining matches. Returning to the top of the table for the fourth time this season and a duration of only 8 days, likely until the weekend after Liverpool’s collapse on Monday night against Crystal Palace, it is firmly in Manchester City’s hands now. Winning their last 3 matches and having the experience of 2 years ago, everything is leaning firmly in favour of the title returning to the blue side of Manchester barring a collapse of epic proportion.
Aston Villa confirmed their Premier League last weekend after their 3-1 victory over Hull City. The victory, which saw Villa leading for nearly the entire match, was a welcome relieve to Paul Lambert who had come under severe pressure from fans after another struggle of a season and a run of form which saw the Midlands side pick up 1 point from 6 matches. Whether there is a managerial change will rumble on into the summer, but a unlikely win away to Manchester City could help to turn the opinions of fans to Lambert’s favour.
Just like in their title winning season a couple of years ago, Yaya Toure is the central force in the Manchester City team and allowing City to pick up 3 points in a routine and professional manner that is so important at this stage of the season – his performance against Crystal Palace was a clear example of this.
The Ivorian midfielder leads the goal scoring chart for City with 19 goals and has often fired them to victory during sticky situations. The clinical finishing that Toure was displayed for Manchester City shouldn’t be underestimated – the former Barcelona midfielder has scored all 8 of his clear cut chances this season – no one else has a record like that in the league.
His influence in the attacking third also stretches to orchestrater with Toure making the most accurate passes for City (1202) in the opposition half alongside 316 passes into the final third which dwarfs the rest of his team mates. With 3 points the only objective in the last 2 fixtures and no real concern over the performance that obtains them, Toure will play his part.
Despite a difficult season, one positive to come out of the campaign for Aston Villa has been the performances of Fabian Delph and he was an important player in the middle of the park against Hull City.
Playing a pivotal role in keeping possession for Villa, Delph made the most passes for his side with 42 and the joint most passes into the penalty area (3). Hull didn’t much of an attacking threat at the weekend – Delph made 1 tackle, 2 ground duels and 2 clearances (the average amount as the rest of his team mates) – but the former Leeds midfielder is the leading player in the ground duels won (206) and has made the 2nd most tackles (72) for Aston Villa this season.
Yaya Toure’s chance conversation rate of 40% is the best in the Premier League (of those with over 15 shots).
Sergio Aguero will be a major miss for City – the Argentine striker has the best minute per goal (85.24) and minute per shot on target (35.34) record in the Premier League.
Despite being for the last couple of months, Christian Benteke still tops the amount of aerial duels (401) in the league this season.
Aston Villa do not have a good record away to City in recent years losing their last 5 visits and conceding 18 in the progress – 13 of those have came in the last 3 seasons.
A concern for City is the injury to Aguero that saw him limp off against Everton on Saturday and he will miss out against Villa. Navas and Nastasic will also miss the title run-in.
Aston Villa’s injury list is extensive and the summer break cannot come early enough for the club. Agbonlahor, Gardner, Benteke, Kozak, N’Zogbia, and Okore are all out for the season; while Bennett and Helenius are both doubtful and will probably not be risked.
With the title now in their sights after fixture at Goodison Park – a place that normally causes Manchester City problems – and Aston Villa’s safety meaning they have nothing to play for, the only outcome out of this match is a victory for the home side.