Aston Villa try to fend off Man Utd’s interest in Grealish

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United all season, with the record champions of England expected to make an offer this summer.

The 24-year-old has been with the West Midlands club since he was six years old and played both an influential role in their promotion back to the Premier League in 2019 and then scored the goal against West Ham United that kept Aston Villa’s top flight status on the final day of the season last month.

Their 1-1 draw away to West Ham United meant Bournemouth were relegated by one point, whilst Villa had collected eight points from their final four games to pull off a great escape.

Grealish has the talent to boss games in the middle of the park and also be a goalscoring threat when deployed down the left wing, as Dean Smith did on several occasions this past season.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would likely see the leader as a central midfielder to partner up with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes next season, should they be successful in making a move for him this summer.

Grealish scored eight goals on top of his six assists in 36 Premier League appearances this past season, whilst also winning the most free kicks in the division, breaking up the opposition’s possession and adding an energy to Dean Smith’s midfield that proved to be just enough to keep his side up.

There’s no doubt playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world and in next season’s Champions League would be a great attraction for the midfielder.

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West Ham have one foot in safety from relegation after a win over Chelsea and draw against Newcastle

For a while there West Ham looked destined to be relegated. There was no shape, discipline or attacking method. Everyone was looking at David Moyes as if to say ‘what now’?

Strange then how just 2 games can change the perspective. The first was against Chelsea where the Hammers were the obvious underdogs and yet not only did they beat the Blues they also put 3 goals past them in a fantastic 3-2 victory.

This match was followed up by a trip to Newcastle, a team under Steve Bruce who were still unbeaten since the restart of the league. The game finished 2-2, the battle was there for all to see. True the Londoners had taken the lead twice and been pegged back as many times but a point away to Newcastle is always a good point.

Those two matches stopped the rot and that was the most important thing for the club who suddenly had a self belief. Led by the inform Michail Antonio his goals have really counted. One could also suggest that Chelsea did the Hammers a favour, it was simply the right fixture at the right time, as West Ham always up their game when they are playing their London rivals.

Relegation can still happen but it feels much more distant now. The club have pulled 4 points clear from both Aston Villa and Bournemouth, only a few weeks ago the only thing saving West Ham from the drop was goal difference.

West Ham now have 31 points and this week they will play Burnley at home. They will be the favourites to win that and if they do they would have taken a huge step for survival this season.

The Hammers remaining games after that is an away trip to Norwich. It’s very possible that by the time they play the Canaries they will have been relegated. This could make the game easier for Moyes’ team. They will then be at home to Watford another game which many would fancy them to win.

Their last two games are against Manchester United away from home and then Aston Villa. It seems like the only tricky tie left for the Hammers will be their trip to Old Trafford as it is very possible that United will be needing a win to qualify for a top 4 spot and thus playing in the Champions League next season.

Even the Hammers final game which is against Aston Villa could be a dead rubber anyway, as the way Villa are playing they are looking like they could be down by then.

West Ham are making a superb recovery just at the right time, and for now all Hammers fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

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Fallen giants in England’s Premier League and in Germany

For many fans of clubs which have fallen on hard times, it’s hard to imagine the level of frustration and even sensations of desperation. Their once-mighty teams used to be all-conquering sides, revered and feared throughout Europe, yet now they face relegation.

For fans of Aston Villa and Werder Bremen right now, especially those old enough to remember the glory days of their clubs, facing the real prospect of descending from the Premier League and Bundesliga must be a bitter pill to swallow.

Angst at Aston Villa

Recent years have hardly been kind for Aston Villa fans, following a team which has been a shadow of their potential. They were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2015/16 season, then it took the club three difficult years to make their return. Supporters were positive, yet the 2019/20 campaign has been tough to endure.

After finishing fifth in the Championship last season and winning the promotion play-offs, Aston Villa were back where many feel the club truly belongs. However, despite finishing as runners-up in the League Cup final this season, their performances in the Premier League have been a constant struggle during the 2019/20 campaign.

Indeed, the latest EPL relegation odds from Betfair would indicate that Villa are tipped to go down, unless they can somehow muster a miracle turnaround in form. That First Division title in 1981 and the magnificent European Cup win of 1982, followed by League Cup triumphs and genuine title challenges in the 1990s all must seem distant memories for the older supporters.

Woes at Werder Bremen

It’s hard to say what exactly has gone so utterly wrong at Werder Bremen this season, although it’s abundantly clear the 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign has been an unmitigated disaster. It’s also one that could end with this once-mighty side being relegated. As of today, Bremen’s status in Germany’s top league remains uncertain because the club finished in 16th place which means Werder must participate in the relegation play-off. The club’s loyal fans are hoping Bremen can pull it off and remain in the Bundesliga to salvage what has been a disastrous season by all standards for this prestigious club.

Given they have endured such a poor season, without any indications of turning the corner, looking at the Bundesliga betting tips from Betfair’s experts, the majority conclusion is that Werder Bremen are destined for relegation. That’s hard to imagine, especially as we’re talking about a club that’s still considered as one of the biggest in German football.

We’re talking about a club that regularly challenged for silverware. A club that won the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal double as recently as the 2003-04 season. A club that featured regularly in the Champions League and Europa League. However, they have struggled for almost a decade now and relegation this year would be the culmination of a lengthy slide.

Hopes for the Future?

Despite being their first season back in the Premier League, it could be argued that Aston Villa weren’t quite ready to return and consolidate their position among the English elite. More than a decade of disorganization and a lack of investment have taken their toll. Maybe a year back in the Championship would help Villa reorganize, ready for a more serious return.

As for Werder Bremen, their fans must be wondering if their situation can get any worse. The last time they experienced life outside the top tier in Germany was way back in the 1980-81 season. However, that actually served to spark a revolution at the club, which then became a golden era of domestic titles and European adventures.

There’s no doubt that both Aston Villa and Werder Bremen are clubs with tremendously passionate fans. These are clubs with magnificent supporters who stand by their team regardless of what happens on the pitch. They demand commitment and dedication from the players but at the same time will give support in return. Hopefully, both sets of fans will get to savor the glory days again and before too long.

Premier League relegation: Who will go down in 2019/20?

With the Premier League back that means all things can now be tied up including the title itself, European places and of course relegation. There was some brief talk of declaring the season null and void, which would have avoided all of this and something that the relegation threatened teams may have welcomed. However with football here to stay the excitement and nervousness will draw in. Let’s take a look at the teams who are and could be heading for relegation:

Norwich are of course bottom of the league and have 21 points. They are 6 points from safety but it only takes one of those teams to push on to put the Canaries in grave danger. They do have 24 points to play for but they would probably have to win 18 of those points to have any chance of staying up. Losing 3-0 at home to Southampton in their last game has not helped their cause.

The club will play Everton tonight which will be a tough game and that will be followed by an away match at Arsenal. There are also games against Chelsea and Manchester City in the mix and we would conclude that Norwich will be going down this season.

Norwich predicted total points: 26

Aston Villa have just come up this season but Dean Smith’s side have struggled at times and could be going straight back down. That isn’t to say that the club haven’t shown some quality but they certainly have looked out of their depth sometimes and simply have not been able to find enough consistency.

Villa have lost 18 games this season including 4 of their last 5 matches and have yet to win since the restart, drawing against Sheffield United and losing against Chelsea.

However the club do have 26 points and are just one point from safety, a run of 2-3 wins could make all the difference. But where are they going to get those points? Villa’s next 3 fixtures are against Wolves, Liverpool and Manchester United. They also have to play tough games against Arsenal and Everton and in the last day of the season they will play West Ham it what could well end up being a finale clash to see who goes down between them. But there is no doubting that Villa have a very hard run in.

Aston Villa predicted total points: 31

Bournemouth are currently in 18th place and holding that final position to go down. But the good news for the club is that safety is just goal difference away as they have 27 points the same as West Ham.

The bad news is some of the games still left for them which includes playing both Manchester teams, Everton, Tottenham and Leicester, with teams going for European spots that looks like being a very tough run in.

Bournemouth total predicted points: 33

Maybe it’s because West Ham moved into their new stadium- the Olympic stadium, maybe it’s because they made the bizarre decision to reappoint David Moyes as manager. But anyhow many eyes are on the London club, who really should be in a better position than they are and fighting for mid table not relegation. But the club look badly run, and if they do go down it feels like quite a lot of football followers would find that hilarious.

The Hammers currently would be safe as they are in 17th place. The problem is that is only on goal difference. There is also only one club above them that they could catch as gaps are starting to appear. They have lost their first two games since the restart against Wolves and Tottenham.

The club do seem to have an easier run in than the other relegation threatened teams but will still have to face Chelsea and Manchester United who are competing for European places so those games won’t be easy.

West Ham total predicted points: 38

Watford are in 16th but are right there in the mix and perhaps the last of the teams who could be threatened with relegation. Since the restart they have played just one game which they drew against Leicester, that match ending 1-1.

Currently they have 28 points so could easily get sucked into a battle. They have some tough fixtures having to play Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. Though a couple of those games are towards the end of the season where if matters have been settled those clubs may not play their strongest sides.

Watford total predicted points: 34

Let’s take a glance at the predicted final table at the bottom of the league based on our predictions above.

16th: West Ham 38

17th: Watford     34

18th: Bournemouth 33

19th: Aston Villa  31

20th: Norwich      26

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Premier League return: Manchester City need to make a statement whilst Arsenal have not given up on Europe

The Premier League will return on June 17th with two fixtures and both look like being mouth watering matches despite the fact that games are having to be played behind closed doors.

Aston Villa will take on Sheffield United in what will be the first Premier League game to take place in 99 days since the Coronavirus pandemic halted football. The evening game sees current champions Manchester City play Arsenal at the Etihad.

Aston Villa are in desperate need of all three points when their campaign restarts given that they are in 19th place, although a win would take them out of the relegation zone. Sheffield United are having a terrific season so far and could go into 5th place with a win. Both teams have a game in hand over the teams around them and that is why this is such an important game for them.

All eyes though will be in Manchester. How will Pep Guardiola’s team react after such a long break? If we look at the Bundesliga in Germany and for example compare City to current German champions Bayern Munich then they should be just fine. Bayern have been in incredible form not only winning games but scoring by the bucket load.

However with no fans it has also been proven in Germany that the home win rate has nosedived. From 46% to just 18%. Whilst City will be raring to go and have the better players they will also find it rather odd to be playing this way.

Arsenal are currently in 9th place and a visit to the Etihad would in normal circumstances have been a daunting trip. Now a team who have really felt the pressure from their own fans may just be able to throw off the shackles and possibly play better and more confident football behind closed doors.

The game will have added spice given that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is returning back to City, of course he was Guardiola’s assistant for a few years before making the switch to Arsenal earlier in the season.

The omens do not look good for Arsenal who have lost five games in a row to City, who also find the back of the net rather too easily. Arsenal’s play usually suits City’s attacking although it will be fascinating to see if Arteta who knows City so well can out do Guardiola.

If Arsenal win then all eyes will be on Liverpool who could then wrap up the league title on Sunday. That would be unique in itself given that they are playing the derby against Everton.

As for Arsenal they have had a poor season by their standards so far and are in 9th place, though they were showing good form before the season had to be stopped. There has certainly been an improvement since Arteta replaced Unai Emery.

For City whilst they do have a game in hand over 3rd placed Leicester- this is the match and they are just 4 points in front of Brendan Rodgers team and would like to pull away from them. This season there is no catching Liverpool but at the end of the day if City were to finish 3rd for example it would really underline a forgettable season for the club.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Aston Villa 2-3 Tottenham

A five goal thriller took place at Villa Park as Tottenham won a rare away game to beat Aston Villa 3-2 for three crucial points.

It was a meeting of the minds, old and new with Aston Villa assistant John Terry reconnecting with Jose Mourinho his former manager and mentor at Chelsea all those years ago. And this was a game.

Villa started with a very daring formation of 3-4-3 with the possibility of putting one player up front back into midfield. And Tottenham went for 4-2-3-1. The away team trying to crowd out midfield and then have Heung-Min Son up front on his own.

The early exchanges would be something that Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld would not forget in a hurry. He latched onto a ball and ended up scoring an own goal after just 9 minutes to give Villa the lead. It looked like Tottenham could have been heading for their 6th away defeat of the season at that point.

But on the 27th minute Tottenham equalised and it was ironic that it would be Alderweireld who would get the goal. Only his 6th goal for the club and his 25th goal in all competitions throughout his career. With the game at 1-1 Tottenham found a new belief, they were back in the game now. Towards half time there was a penalty call as it appeared that Villa’s Bjorn Engels had handled the ball but the referee was happy not to give it. It finally went to VAR and there was a long delay, which was unfortunate- is this what football is really all about now? But VAR came back and did give the penalty. Suddenly Tottenham had the chance to go into the first half in the lead.

Heung-Min Son took the penalty but his effort was saved by Pepe Reina however the ball rebounded and the South Korean made no mistake in stabbing at home and Tottenham were leading 2-1.

It had been a fantastic and frantic first half of football that had seen 38 attempts on goal, with 10 on target for Tottenham and 4 on target for Villa. And nobody could wait until the second half got underway.

In some ways this was a game of redemption; Alderweireld had scored an own goal and then scored a goal to get his side back in the game and now Bjorn Engels was on hand to do just the same. After conceding the penalty in the first half, Jack Grealish set up Engels who equalised inside 10 minutes of the re start and we had a game on.

Whilst Villa should be given credit for wanting the win and not wanting to settle for the draw, Tottenham were on top in the 2nd half producing 7 shots on target to Villa’s eventual 2. This game looked like it would end 2-2 though, which would have been a big point for the home side but would have dented Tottenham’s top 4 aspirations. But this game wasn’t over.

Villa had held out until the 94th minute with the whistle about to blow there was a clear panic in defence and the ball fell to Son who made no mistakes and scored a glorious winner that sent the team, the away fans and Mourinho ecstatic. It was huge and the win put Tottenham just one point behind Chelsea for 4th. It was also Son’s 9th goal of the season in the league.

Whilst there was jubilation in the Tottenham camp there was frustration of what could have been in the Villa one and relegation remains a big threat for the club who are in 17th and are just one point from safety.

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Premier League Predictions: Week 26

The winter break is still here but we do  have staggered games, and that means we will see 6 games at the weekend. The likes of Liverpool, Leicester, Tottenham and Arsenal will all be in action. Let’s take a look at the games and the players who could stand out.

Wolves v Leicester

Here are two teams very equal and two teams that have surprised many fans this season. We think this early kick off will end in a point apiece for the teams. It will be interesting if Wolves’ Diogo Jota can get a run out as he scored a hat trick against Leicester last season. Draw

Southampton v Burnley

The Saints have had a slight knock back losing 2 of their last 3 games and Burnley are unbeaten in their last 3 games. We will take the draw here in a game that we expect to have plenty of chances for both sides but also be physical. Draw

Norwich v Liverpool

It would be the biggest shock of the season if Norwich were to become the first team to beat Liverpool this season. Norwich are bottom of the league and have lost 15 games, they are also 7 points from safety. Liverpool really should have no problems to win this game and should ease to victory. Although we should remember that Norwich did beat Manchester City here earlier in the season. Liverpool to beat Norwich

Aston Villa v Tottenham

Aston Villa are just 1 point above the bottom three and have one win in their last four games. The club have won 40% of their home games which isn’t good enough in this league. Tottenham have had a little rest also, but Jose Mourinho is in a good mood and the players look more settled under him. Watch out for Steven Bergwijn can he create magic like he did a few weeks ago? Tottenham to beat Aston Villa

Arsenal v Newcastle

Mikel Arteta has just 1 win in his 7 league games, but also has only lost one, the club just keep on drawing games. So do Newcastle who have 3 in their last four games. If Newcastle can use Joelinton to his full capacity he could be a handle and he likes playing in London. Draw

Chelsea v Manchester United

The big game. With Chelsea in 4th they could really slip up for their Champions League hopes if they don’t get a win. United have already won here in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season. This could be and should be an epic game. United are in 8th and if they lose this game they would slip 9 points behind a Champions League place. N’Golo Kante can run things in midfield and we are going to back the home side over an injury depleted United one who have only won 3 games away from home. Chelsea to beat Manchester United

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Premier League Fantasy Weekend Picks: Matchday 26

Because of the winter break in the Premier League games are being staggered but there are more this weekend then last and we get six games. Let’s take a look below at our player fantasy picks based on form and the fixtures to see if your players will be earning points this weekend.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Bernd Leno- Arsenal

This has not been a great season for Bernd Leno keeping just 5 clean sheets so far. But Mikel Arteta has finally had time to spend with the club and there seems to be a plan to do better. Plus Arsenal will be at home to Newcastle and start as the favourites.

Defender: Toby Alderweireld- Tottenham

Tottenham rode their luck in beating Manchester City this month but nobody is talking of how good the defenders were. The club play Aston Villa who are in trouble and perhaps they have the quality to win this game and keep a clean sheet. Alderweireld has 4 clean sheets so far.

Defender: Davinson Sanchez- Tottenham

Sticking with Tottenham Davinson Sanchez was impressive against champions Manchester City in keeping a clean sheet, so why not repeat that against lowly Aston Villa? Plus Tottenham have been able to keep 2 clean sheets from their last 3 matches.

Defender: Ryan Bertrand- Southampton

Southampton will be the favourites to beat Burnley at the weekend and they are at home. He has helped keep 3 clean sheets so far that includes two in the last five games.

Defender: Willy Boly- Wolves

Willy Boly has been involved in 4 clean sheets this season. Wolves take on Leicester which will be a difficult game but at the same time they are at home. Boly would cost 6.5m and has earned 18 points so far.

Midfielder: Granit Xhaka- Arsenal

Is this the game for Arsenal playing at home to Newcastle that changes their season around, or will it be more of the same and end in a draw or defeat? Granit Xhaka has found himself back in the team and he has kept 5 clean sheets, the one worry is that he hasn’t scored yet, but that could be set to change at the weekend.

Midfielder: Tanguy Ndombele- Tottenham

Jose Mourinho has called on Ndombele to bring out a performance and the talented midfielder may just be able to do that when the club take on relegation threatened Aston Villa at the weekend, he is certainly worth a pick and can win games.

Midfielder: Steven Bergwijn- Tottenham

Steven Bergwijn had a dream debut for Tottenham in his last game scoring a fantastic goal against Manchester City. Now Tottenham will play Aston Villa and the Dutchman is sure to have a few opportunities on goal and trying to provide some. He would cost 8.5m.

Midfielder: Jordan Henderson- Liverpool

Henderson is being tipped to receive the Premier League player of the season and for good reason. He has 41 points and would only cost 7m which seems like a bargain, he is involved in everything going forward and has scored 3 goals and assisted in a further 4.

Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang- Arsenal

Arsenal’s star striker, without Aubameyang Arsenal aren’t going to win games. The Gunners have a tough match at the weekend but they are at home and they need to beat Newcastle. One would think they would need at least 2 goals and it would be a real surprise not to see this man on the score sheet, and he has 14 goals this season.

Striker: Raul Jimenez- Wolves

Raul Jimenez just remains a dangerous striker and he could be the difference when Wolves take on Leicester. His cost is only 5.5m and that is great when you think he has 54 points so far and has scored 11 goals, he is well worth inclusion if you don’t already have him.

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Premier League: Player of the Week: Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero would have won a lot of player of the week’s so here is his umpteenth one and this one was arguably the most deserving.

Aguero who has been one of the very best strikers to have graced the game in England collected 16 points in the week as his side Manchester City made light work of Aston Villa and won the game at Villa Park 6-1.

The Argentinian has made the news headlines because his 3 goals were so significant. Firstly he broke Alan Shearer’s record of the most Premier League hat tricks, which had stood at 11, now Aguero has 12. Then and more importantly he scored his 175th, 176th and 177th league goals for City. That took Aguero up to joint 4th in the all time top goalscorers in Premier League history.

In doing so Aguero passed Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and became the most successful foreign striker in Premier League history. With 177 goals he now has the same as Chelsea legend Frank Lampard. Just one more goal will put Aguero into 3rd place which is simply inevitable.

As a side note one wonders just how far Aguero could go on the all time table? In 3rd place is Andrew Cole who has 187 goals, and that could well  be a target for Aguero to break this season, he has a very good chance needing 11 more goals to do it. Could Aguero go even further though? He is 31 and there was talk at the beginning of the season that he could leave Manchester City at the end of this one.

If he was to stay, with the mentality of the club needing to have younger, fitter strikers, even if Aguero stayed fit one would suspect that he would have at best 2 good seasons in England left in him. On average if he scored 45 goals in those seasons and another 10 in this he could well reach 55 goals. This is all hearsay of course but around that figure would take Aguero to around 230 goals. Easy that would be good enough to be the 2nd best striker. But Alan Shearer’s record look like it is going nowhere as he scored 260 goals. It is worth noting that Aguero’s strike rate is far superior to Shearer’s.

So it has been a fantastic week for Aguero and a record breaking one too. In the fantasy rankings he is in 2nd place with 60 pts and has scored 13 goals and assisted in a further 3. He has no yellow cards so far this season and he would cost you to include him in your team 14m. That’s a lot of budget, but you would be getting one of the very best potent strikers in Europe for the last decade.

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Premier League Game of the Weekend: Aston Villa 1-6 Manchester City

Two teams at two different halves of the league with two different objectives played on Sunday afternoon. For Aston Villa they were always going to be the underdog, but they knew they needed to fight for points. The emergence of Watford who looked to be taking up one place for relegation this season means that Villa have become a relegation contender. They fight it.

For Manchester City, the league looks over but they won’t give it up. The champions are 14 points behind Liverpool with this win and the Reds have a game in hand. It could be 17 by the end of the month. City’s true objective in the league was never to be in 3rd place, a position they courted for a few weeks as Leicester showed flashes of the team that won them the league title in 2016. Another objective in winning this game then, was to go 2nd and leapfrog Leicester who had already lost to Southampton the day before.

City met their objective as Villa’s one collapsed in on itself like a black hole. And it is a black hole where most of the Villa team would have wished for when they were on the receiving end of a vintage Manchester City performance.

When City attack this good, not many teams can match them.  A 6-1 victory is a massive score line and one that you feel manager Pep Guardiola needed (lest we forget the team in bottom place, Norwich City, who actually beat Guardiola’s team earlier this season) and these kind of games before a whistle is blown can be potential banana skins. But the only players slipping on them were Villa’s back four who were opened up time and again from the devastating attacks born from defence, made in the midfield and executed so well by a forward line, stand up Sergio Aguero.

It was Aguero who scored his 175th, 176th and 177th goals on Sunday. It was Aguero who passed Thierry Henry’s decade long record of scoring the most goals in the Premier League for a foreign player, and it was Aguero who scored his 12th hat trick, a record in the league surpassing Alan Shearer’s 11.

Aguero earned a whopping 16 pts in the Euro Fantasy League rankings too. He has 60 pts in total and is the current 2nd best potent striker in the rankings. From 12 starts Aguero has scored 13 goals and assisted in another three.

Rightly so Aguero should be championed but let’s not forget Riyad Mahrez who also had a spectacular game scoring two goals himself and at one point both him and Aguero were on 2 goals a piece and we were just wondering who of the two was going to complete a hat trick? Mahrez may have lost out on that battle, but it didn’t matter one bit. Mahrez is now ranked 5th in the fantasy rankings for Premier League strikers with 52 points. He has scored 7 goals and assisted in another 7 and that is an impressive stat.

Talking of stats City had a stunning 22 goal attempts, with 12 on target against Villa, just more than 50% of shots were hitting their target and 50% of goals flew in as a result. Gabriel Jesus’ 9th goal of the season was largely forgotten then giving the exploits of Aguero’s record and Mahrez’s goals.

This was a statement win for City and they would have loved to have kept a clean sheet too but Villa were awarded a last minute penalty, to give what fans remained crumbs from the richness of a six banquet meal.

What this means for the league may seem like little. Guardiola will hope that if Liverpool cannot lose games this season they will start drawing them and dropping points. It would mean that City would have to do what they did last season and go on a truly unique run which saw them win every game in the new year. The league title seems unlikely but at least City are interested in giving a challenge, and, that is the least one could ask for.

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