Match Preview: Aston Villa v Manchester City at Villa Park

Do you remember how you felt that day we played Charlton when it was all confirmed Randy Lerner had control of the club? That is how Manchester City fans feel now, or have done for almost as long as us and I hate to say it, they are going to be closer to it than us this season.

Manchester City have the real deal. Okay, it could go like Leeds or Newcastle, but it probably won't and Sheikh Mansour has a personal fortune thought to be in the region of £50 billion and access to a family fortune in the region of £500 billion. Do you really think they are going to struggle any time soon?


It isn't going to go the way of Leeds or Newcastle at Manchester City and they have an owner who is passionate and successful in sport. He will buy success for them and after a period of time, much like what Chelsea are aiming for, they will become self financing.

But, they are still at the stage where it could all go wrong in footballing terms and Mark Hughes isn't going to be the manager that it all happens for at Manchester City. Don't get me wrong, he's a decent manager, but a part of me just can't see it happening for him.

When Manchester City don't win the league this season and this will show the ambition, they'll sack Hughes, get a manager that has done it before and they'll spend the money and probably do it the following season or the one after.

Fortunately for us, they are not yet the team that you should fear. They have decent players but so do we and if the manager picks the right team for Monday and plays them the right way, we can beat anyone, we really can. It's just about the team that turns up and more importantly, the team that O'Neill picks.

If he picks the wrong team, because of pressure or because he makes a mistake, then we will likely lose. It really does come down to him and I know we are over simplifying things but ask your self this; if on Monday night you find out he has picked 442 with Delph and Stan in the middle, what do you think the score will be?

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Once you've answered that, ask yourself what you think the score will be with Petrov, Reo-Coker and Sidwell in the middle with Gabby up front. Behaviour breeds behaviour and if most of us believe that is the best possible team for us to win a match, then chances are that others think that too and you never know, maybe the players think that too and maybe they think, when we start 442, we are already beaten. We simply don't know, but you don't need to be a scientist to look at the statistics.

The thing is, we just don't know, but I'm fairly confident that O'Neill will be starting 451 on Monday night. We've also sent him this desktop wallpaper so we know he knows and if he doesn't, then that is something else to worry about.

When he does pick 451 we will win the midfield battle and we stand a chance of winning the match. However, Manchester City have some fantastic strikers and have strengthened defensively, it will take some pretty good performances from us to keep them at bay and it will take us playing our best hit and run football to win. It might not be the best football, but it does work for us and it can work on Monday night.

And that is it really. Previews have become easier to write for me because we do play one of two or three ways and they all sort of equal one of the possible outcomes. I know it isn't nice to say but it really does depend on the players O'Neill picks that will determine how we play.

We don't seem to be able to mix it up in footballing terms so we need to play to the strengths of his players which in the case of Monday night means we have to play like we did at Anfield and if we do, then chances are we will get the right result.

If you are at Villa Park also, you should not boo Gareth Barry. Instead, wave the £50 note - it will be a lot more effective than booing and send a very significant message that he will understand. He won't care either way, he clearly never did.

Right, that is it for the preview, it isn't difficult for me and I hope the right team turns up as we need three points on Monday night. Mathematically, we could be bottom half after this result. We won't be, but it is possible but it just goes to show how desperate we are for the points.

But I think we will win, O'Neill will pick 451 because how many times can someone get it wrong before figuring it out. Continuity is key, why change a winning thing? Pick 451 O'Neill and fire up your players, it is what you do best.

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