This Sunday’s Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Manchester City certainly has the makings of a decisive game in the outcome of the title race. With City’s stuttering away form over the last six weeks seeing them lose three times in the Premier League, would a defeat by Villa on Sunday represent a fatal blow to their title chances?
Clearly Villa this season have been playing a drab brand of football that can in truth explain their abject league position. This for a club of Villa’s stature is simply not good enough. The appointment of McLeish has divided many Villa fans and seven months on we are no nearer a consensus on his status. Nevertheless, Villa in spite of their patchy form, Villa has over the last month or so begun to deliver performances that should in truth have given them greater reward than they have accrued thus far. With players of the calibre of Bent, Ireland, Given and a rejuvenated Robbie Keane, Villa should pose some serious questions of a City rear-guard which has looked suspect over the last month or so. While accepting that the suspension to Kompany robbed them of their talisman for four games, this cannot explain the general malaise that has crept into City’s play in recent times. Gibson’s goal for Everton saw him standing on the halfway line with Richards prior to the goal, yet by the time he reached the edge of the box, Richards was strolling back to see his team concede.
As potent as City have been as an attacking force over the last month or so, Silva hasn’t been at his best nor has Aguero, while Dzeko hasn’t been firing on all cylinders for what seems like an age. This brings me to a certain Mr Tevez. If ever there was a time to call for the return of the gifted and mercurial Argentine, then Sunday would be the perfect opportunity for him to return as they have been lacking a spark that he could undoubtedly provide. Conversely, on the Villa side with Keane departing to sunnier parts in a few weeks, they need to make the most of his tactical nous while they still have him on board. Villa during their emphatic victory over Chelsea at the end of December demonstrated that they possess the qualities to challenge the strongest of Premier League teams, so why not adopt the same approach for City on Sunday?
With Ireland beginning to look like a player again after two years in the doldrums, what better place to showcase his obvious ability then against his former employers who cast him aside when the oil money was pumped into the club? With a solid structure Villa should now be aspiring to be where Newcastle are, on the brink of Champions League football. Yet, they are instead a few defeats away from being dragged into a relegation battle that a squad of their talent should be nowhere near. The time has come for Villa to illustrate that this season will not just be another confined to the past, forgotten in an instant. They now need to stand united and play a brand of football not like the puke football the home fans have been subjected to on many occasions this season. For the talent available to them their approach should be positive and if they adopt such a positive outlook to Sunday’s crucial encounter then by Sunday evening, perhaps the Villa supporters may be rejoicing on the appointment of Mr McLeish after all.