Aston Villa vs Man City Game 32 (4/21/2021)

The good news for the Villa is that there is recent evidence that Man City can be beaten.  When we met them in Manchester in January, they were in the middle of a season defining 20-game winning streak that all but the sealed them as Premier League Champions.  Now, they appear to have lost their drive.  Recent defeats to a 10-man Leeds at home in the league and to Chelsea in the F.A. Cup Semi-Finals, are ample proof. 

The home and away fixtures with PSG over the next two weeks that stand between them and Champions League Final are also good news for the Villans. This is the prize that manager Pep Guardiola won in his first year as a manager (at Barcelona) in 2009 and he repeated in 2011 but has failed to repeat since.   He would likely trade a Premiership and Carabao Cup for beating the best in Europe.

So, what kind of mindset do the claret and blues have?  That gut-wrenching loss to the Reds last time out, may have meant more to their fans than to the team.  Their schedule is tough and the odds of making into European soccer next year have greatly increased as injuries keep adding up.

What likely will help is that Smith might be emboldened to give the fringe players an opportunity to shine.  That would include Davis and Carney Chukwuemeka.  With Watkins receiving cover from Davis, he will be more of a threat, and one goal might be enough.

The other factor is likely to be the absence of the Barkley distraction.  After detailed analysis of Villa’s performance with the Chelsea loanee in various roles (playing for the starting 11, injured and trying different replacements, and Barkley substituting), one scenario stands out as being the best for the team.

No, surprisingly, it was not when Ross and Jack Grealish were playing alongside each other.  That phase was only for five games and the team won three but lost two games.  Nor was it when Barkley recovered and started back in the starting line-up.  Then they won three but lost four.  For the record, as you will undoubtedly know, they were worst when Barkley was on the bench and subbed into the game. They did not win one game when Barkley was brought off the bench.

In fact, sad to say, the Villans had a perfect record when Scott Barkley did not step on the field of play.  Those were the first two games of the season and the games away against Leeds and home to Fulham which they won all with a combined goal tally of 14 goals for and 1 against. 

That should not suggest that his acquisition was a total failure.  He made major contributions in three games and scored the only goal against Southampton, but for the rest of the season he was more of a distraction than a benefit. 

That could have been very different if had not got injured.  However, he did little to allay concerns about his all-around contributions and commitment and, I would be surprised if many serious fans will be sorry to see him move one.

With no Ross engaged tomorrow, I would expect the Villa to at least gain a point.

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