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Apr 2, 2024 1:36 pm

Pursuing 4th straight title, Man City host Aston Villa in key clash

Pep Guardiola

After settling for a scoreless draw against Arsenal on Sunday, third-place Manchester City face what could be a must-win occasion to stay in the title race when fourth-place Aston Villa visit Wednesday night.

City (19-3-7, 64 points) is unbeaten in its last 14 league fixtures as it has tried to build momentum in its challenge to become the first four-time consecutive Premier League champions.

But back-to-back draws away to Liverpool and then home against Arsenal have prevented Pep Guardiola’s men from taking back control of their title fate.

The latter, an uneventful affair in which City bossed possession but created few chances, handed Liverpool control of the race in the form of a three-point lead over the Cityzens and a two-point edge over the Gunners. But the margin is still very small with nine matches left, and Guardiola’s side has every reason to keep applying pressure.

“Just winning games is what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “We don’t have many more chances to drop points. Nine games. Villa play for the Champions League and every team plays for something, the last games are difficult to manage. It will be for all of us.”

Lingering injuries in defense have led City to a more conservative attacking approach of late. Center back Nathan Ake, fullback Kyle Walker and goalkeeper Ederson are all unavailable for Wednesday’s match. Center back John Stones could return from a hip issue that has kept him out since the March international window.

Villa (18-7-5, 59 points) is the last side to beat City in league play, triumphing 1-0 at home on Dec. 6 in a performance that was more dominant than the final score indicated. And it could potentially climb into shouting distance of the title race with another victory Wednesday.

But it will have to come without striker Ollie Watkins, who departed with a hamstring injury in a 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

Watkins is having a career season with 16 goals and 10 assists in the league. Without him, the minutes could fall to 20-year-old Colombian Jhon Duran, who has two goals in a bit under 300 minutes of action primarily off the bench.

“He will have the opportunity to get minutes, to get confidence and to show his power and capacity,” Villa manager Unai Emery said of Duran. “It is his moment as well.”

–Field Level Media

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