It was a baptism of fire for Remi Garde when he took over at Aston Villa. His very first game at Villa Park was against a Manchester City side who were on rampant form. There was a raucous atmosphere in the Fabian Delph derby, and perhaps the Villa fans will come to the game with toy snakes once again.
That day, though, Villa managed a commendable goalless draw. They looked solid at the back and were a threat going forward on occasion, too. Since then, Villa have improved, but they’re still bottom of the table and still look utterly doomed. Last season’s FA Cup finalists may be preparing for life in the Championship next season, but perhaps the cup is just the distraction they need in order to regain some confidence and end the season well. If you can’t gain confidence from beating Manchester City in the Cup, then where can you get it?
City, meanwhile, are just coming off the back of a hard-fought game against Everton in midweek where they managed to progress to the Capital One Cup final, but at the cost of losing Kevin de Bruyne, possibly for the rest of the season given the time it will take to get him back to match fitness.
Fatigue and injuries have been a problem for City this season already, but their biggest problem has, at times, looked like apathy. Will they be up for an FA Cup fourth round match away to the bottom side? If they are, it could be a thrill to watch, but City’s away form has been dismal this season, and a lot of that might have to do with the attitude of the squad, especially when faced with away games.
It would hardly be a traditional Cup upset, but if Villa could pull it off, surely it would be unexpected – but with City’s attitude and form problems away from home, it would hardly be a shock.
Here are the teams:
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) January 30, 2016
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) January 30, 2016