City rediscover top form ahead of Real test
By Graham Chase
Manchester City 5 Aston Villa 0
Champions League progression remains a pipe dream but Roberto Mancini may still look back on last week as a significant one.
For much of the start to the season there has been a sense of something not quite right with the champions. From the European failure, defensive issues, more bother with Mario Balotelli, as well as Mancini dealing with reports he spoke to Monaco at the end of last season by revealing he negotiated with as many as seven more teams, negative issues have never been far away at the Etihad Stadium.
Even Joe Hart has come in for criticism in recent weeks but on Saturday City reminded themselves of the cure to it all.
Despite all the talk of three-man backlines, they still have the best defensive record in the league but the victory over Aston Villa was the first time they have scored more than three goals this season, a feat they managed on five occasions in their first 12 Premier League games last season.
Scoring and winning always makes it easy to forget strife and, symbolically, Carlos Tevez was able to make light of having his car impounded due to him not having a valid UK driving licence by sitting down and pretending to turn a steering wheel after firing in City’s third.
Sergio Aguero and Tevez each scoring twice meant the overall tally of Premier League goals from Mancini’s strikers increased from seven to 13 in the space of a week.
And just as crucial was the return to form of David Silva. The Spaniard has been hampered by an ankle problem all year and returned from a hamstring problem for the 2-1 win over Tottenham but produced a display that harked back to the player we all took for granted in his first two years in England.
Here he was again, cutting in from the right with the ball a couple of centimetres away from his left foot, ready to torment.
They may be top of the Premier League table now but, with two points from their four games, they sit bottom of their group in the Champions League ahead of Wednesday’s home game against Real Madrid. But Mancini has demanded much more if City are to keep their slim European hopes alive.
“Real are one of the best teams in the world. To beat them we will have to give a perfect performance,” Mancini said.
“We will have to play even better than we did against Aston Villa, if we are to beat Real. That’s what it is going to take.
“Unfortunately it will not count for anything against Real Madrid. But it is important for the Premier League. We will need perfect concentration for this game.”
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart 8; Maicon 7, Kompany 7, Nastasic 6, Clichy 6 (Kolarov 73); Silva 8 (Sinclair 76), Y Toure 7, Barry 6, Nasri 7; Aguero 8 (Dzeko 68, 7), Tevez 8.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan 8, Lowton 7, Vlaar 8, Clark 6, Stevens 6; Westwood 5 Bannan 6, Weimann 6 (Holman 62, 5), Agbonlahor 5; Ireland 5 (Albrighton 62, 6); Benteke 6 (Bowery 83).
Referee: Jon Moss.
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