Manchester City wins, within three points of first ahead of Arsenal tilt
Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, and Riyad Mahrez all scored as Manchester City opened the door to the Premier League throne room with a 3-1 win over Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
The win moves City within three points of leaders Arsenal before the Wednesday meeting between the Premier League’s first- and second-place teams.
City looked wide awake following the Premier League charging City with over 100 alleged breaches of rules over a lengthy period of time; While there is huge uncertainty surrounding Pep Guardiola’s side and their future, the men were ready to do the job on Sunday.
[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]
As for Aston Villa, Unai Emery’s side lost 4-2 at home to Leicester City and it’s two-straight matches without a point as the Villans sit 11th with 28 points. Villa’s 13th-straight loss at the Etihad’s silver lining is another goal from Ollie Watkins.
Here come the (aggrieved) champions
if Pep Guardiola knew 100+ charges were going to be filed against Manchester City at some point, he’d probably thank the “other 19 teams” for whatever happened that made the Premier League announce them this week.
Guardiola’s previously morose two-time defending champions took about two minutes to get the ball and then never really let it go, scoring thrice in the first half and setting the stage for Wednesday’s huge clash at Arsenal.
Unai Emery’s Villa was well-prepared and it just didn’t matter in the long run. City anywhere near its best for any period of time -- in this case it was about 40 minutes -- is too much for almost anyone.
And that’s the message City wanted to send to wobbled Arsenal ahead of Wednesday’s big clash in North London.
Rodri reaction: Man City focusing on the on-field
Stars of the Show
Riyad Mahrez: Only five players have more assists in a City shirt in all competitions: Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, and Bernardo Silva.
Rodri: This average, 100-plus touch, 100-plus pass day happens to include a terrific headed goal. Are we going to sleep on this cat’s greatness until he’s retired, too?
Erling Haaland: The work he did on the second goal showcased his full skill set. He’s not just a monster who knows how to finish, but a big man who can cut up a rug until he’s got the space to put an assist on the score sheet.
Ilkay Gundogan: Like David Silva before him, he just does what he’s asked to do and doesn’t ask why he isn’t getting more love. Rodri (see above) and he should start a podcast.
Man City goes to Arsenal for a 2:30pm ET Wednesday tilt in North London, then stays away from the Etihad Stadium for a Saturday visit to the City Ground and Nottingham Forest.
Villa will hope City wears down Arsenal, because Unai Emery’s old club is next on the docket, a 7:30am ET Saturday scrap at Villa Park.
Rodri goal video: Spaniard heads champs in front 1-0
Ilkay Gundogan goal video: Haaland cues up Villa villain
Riyad Mahrez goal video: Algerian converts Grealish-won pen
Ollie Watkins goal video: Villans pull one back
How to watch Manchester City vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 11:30am ET, SundayTV Channel: USA NetworkOnline: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
All of the talk this week around City has been about the ramifications of the alleged breaches and how that will impact their future.
Pep Guardiola said the following about the charges ahead of this game: “What’s happened since Monday is the same as what happened with UEFA. We have already been condemned. You have to understand that 19 teams in the Premier League are accusing us without us having the ability to defend. We are lucky we live in a marvellous country where everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We didn’t have this opportunity, we are already sentenced. I am fully convinced we will be [proven] innocent.”
On the pitch, City haven’t looked like themselves since the World Cup break as Kevin de Bruyne hasn’t featured often and Erling Haaland is struggling to match his goalscoring exploits from earlier in the season. By the time this game kicks off, City could be eight points behind Arsenal.
Villa’s week has been a lot more straightforward and Emery is keen for Villa to prove their defeat against Leicester was a one off. That defeat aside, Villa look much better defensively and are set up to counter. They could prove very fruitful against a Man City side who will push plenty of players forward to force the issue.
Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: John Stones (hamstring).
Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Diego Carlos (Achilles), Bertrand Traore (knee), Jed Steer (Achilles)