Manchester City-Aston Villa Preview
Pep Guardiola appeared to go against his employers as the Manchester City boss expressed reservations over plans for a European Super League.
City are one of six Premier League sides to have signed up for a 12-team breakaway competition, which has led to huge criticism from across the sport and beyond.
As expected, Guardiola's news conference ahead of City's meeting with Aston Villa on Wednesday was dominated with questions about the competition - which would not feature promotion or relegation - and its meaning for football across Europe.
"Sport is not a sport when the relation between the effort and reward doesn't exist," Guardiola said.
"It's not sport when success is guaranteed, when it doesn't matter if you lose. I want the best competitions as strong as possible. In this statement, it's what I feel. This is not sport."
Though Guardiola went on to suggest every governing body - including UEFA, who have promised strong sanctions against the 12 clubs if necessary - acts in their own interests, it seems the City boss was far from sold on the idea.
He would be joined in that line of thinking by Villa manager Dean Smith, who said: "I've got total sympathy for the six managers of English clubs involved who are having to front up to the media.
"I'm deeply saddened by it and disappointed. I was born in 1971, Villa were a third division club, 11 years later, I watched them lift the European Cup, which is the pinnacle, which is now the Champions League.
"That was the dream, they earned the right to do that by winning the league. It totally baffles me, it actually takes away the competition. I dreamt of becoming a Premier League manager and my next dream is to break into those Champions League places and challenge again."
Aston Villa - Ollie Watkins
Villa top scorer Ollie Watkins has netted in his last two Premier League games - he is yet to score in three in a row in the competition.
Manchester City - Gabriel Jesus
City striker Gabriel Jesus has scored 49 goals in 125 Premier League appearances, and could become just the second Brazilian to reach 50 in the competition after Roberto Firmino.
- Sergio Aguero has scored 10 goals in his last six starts against Villa in all competitions, including a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory in this exact fixture last season, though it remains to be seen whether he will be fit to feature for City.
- City have won each of their last nine Premier League away games and could become the first team to win 10 in a row on the road in the competition on more than one occasion (won 11 in a row between May-December 2017).
- Villa have picked up more points away from home (24) than they have at home (20) in the Premier League this season. The last full top-flight campaign where the Villans won fewer points at home than on the road was 2012-13 (20 home, 21 away).
- City have won their last four Premier League meetings with Villa by an aggregate score of 15-1. Indeed, the Citizens have scored more Premier League goals against Villa than they have vs any other opponent (83).
- Villa have lost eight of their last 10 Premier League games against the league leaders, with those defeats coming by an aggregate score of 22-5. The exceptions in this run were a 1-0 win against Chelsea (March 2014) and a goalless draw with Man City (November 2015).
Updated April 20, 2021