Football

/ Preview

  • Aston Villa v Manchester City, Premier League

Mancini warns Villa are better than table suggests

ESPN staff
March 4, 2013
Manchester City will be hopeful of another win over Aston Villa © Getty Images
Enlarge

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists he is focused on trying to plot an upset against Manchester City rather than forthcoming games with fellow strugglers Reading and QPR.

Lambert knows the significance of the Premier League double-header which will follow on from the meeting with Roberto Mancini's side with Villa in the bottom three.

But he has taken enough encouragement from Villa's performances in recent weeks - including last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Arsenal - to believe they can at least compete against the champions.

Lambert said: "I felt there were signs of encouragement against Arsenal but then I've felt that for a few weeks without getting the results.

"That's the frustrating thing, when you play well and don't get results especially the games at Everton, West Brom and Swansea.

"When you have a two-goal lead at Everton and West Brom and you don't see it through, or concede a late equaliser as was the case at Swansea, it's frustrating.

"If you had taken maximum points from those games, then you'd be sitting mid-table and, against Arsenal, we should have had at least a point.''

Skipper Ron Vlaar is battling to overcome the calf injury which forced him out of last weekend's game at Arsenal.

Vlaar was unable to train during the earlier part of the week but the Dutch international defender will be assessed prior to kick-off.

Striker Darren Bent remains doubtful with a foot injury but keeper Shay Given has recovered from a groin problem in time to be part of the squad to face his former club.

City also have doubts over their captain, Vincent Kompany. The Belgium defender has missed the last five games with a calf injury and looks more likely to return in the FA Cup quarter-finals against Barnsley next week.

Midfielder Gareth Barry (ankle) is back in contention to face his old club but right-backs Maicon and Micah Richards (both knee) remain on the sidelines.

Mancini believes Villa are better than their lowly position suggests. After a deserved victory over Chelsea last weekend, City will be expected to brush aside the relegation-threatened midlanders.

But the champions came unstuck at another struggling side, Southampton, last month and Mancini is wary of some of the talent at Villa Park.

The Italian said: "Aston Villa are in a difficult situation. I don't know their situation very well but for me they have good players.

"Maybe they have young players and this is the reason they fight against relegation.

"But it is my opinion they have good players and probably they don't deserve to stay there.''

Aston Villa player to watch: Gabriel Agbonlahor was instrumental as Villa surprisingly beat City in the Capital One Cup earlier in the year, and the speedy - if sometimes infuriating - forward will likely need to produce his best again if the much-maligned club are to get anything from this game.

Manchester City player to watch: Carlos Tevez acknowledged at the weekend that, while he is on good terms again with Roberto Mancini, he still needs to win over the fans after going AWOL last season. Down one striker after Mario Balotelli's January departure, a decisive goal in this one from the former Manchester United striker would be gratefully received by the City faithful.

Betting: Tevez to score the opening goal of the game between the 21st and 45th minutes of the match is an intriguing proposition at 12/1 with bet365.

Prediction: 1-2.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Close