Since slipping to a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United on New Year’s Day, Aston Villa have had to watch the rest of the Premier League continue on as normal, whilst they’ve had to wait patiently on the sidelines.
Aside from an FA Cup third round clash against Liverpool that saw a team full of academy players have to step up to the plate, Dean Smith’s side have had no competitive action since the United game.
The Villa boss confirmed in his pre-match press conference ahead of their return against Manchester City tonight, that his players are all raring to go, and are keen to get their campaign back on track.
Below is a look at just how Villa might line up for the visit of Pep Guardiola’s men.
In goal, Emiliano Martinez will be hoping to keep up his side’s excellent defensive record this season, with their total of 16 goals conceded leaving them with the second-meanest defence, only behind their opponents tonight (13).
The defence should remain unchanged from the defeat to United, with Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett hoping that they can pick up at least a point against the other half of Manchester.
Reports in recent days have suggested Villa are in talks to signing Marseille Morgan Sanson, so Douglas Luiz and John McGinn will no doubt be keen to show their manager that they remain the club’s best midfield duo.
Further forward is where Smith might look to make a brave call. Pictures emerged in the build-up to the game of Ross Barkley in training, and the England international could well be Villa’s match-winner tonight.
If he does start, then that could leave no room for the 55-cap Bertrand Traore, with the in-form Anwar El Ghazi who’s scored five goals in his last six Premier League games, and Jack Grealish either side of Barkley.
Up front, Ollie Watkins will remain Villa’s number nine.
Predicted XI: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; El Ghazi, Barkley, Grealish; Watkins.