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City seek European boost against Villa

24 April 2015, 10:32

Manchester - Manchester City will look to continue to draw home comfort from a disappointing season with a victory over FA Cup finalists Aston Villa on Saturday which would edge them closer to a top-four finish in the Premier League.

With City 12 points adrift of leaders Chelsea, their focus now is on ensuring they qualify for next season's Champions League by holding off the challenge from below of Liverpool in fifth and sixth-placed Tottenham, who they play on Sunday week.

The defending champions have struggled to regain last season's form and focus which saw City win the Premier League for the second time in three years.

But despite that, Manuel Pellegrini's side has been beaten just twice in the league at Eastlands this season and have won their last four home games -- scoring 12 goals and conceding none.

City have often had to try to prise open teams who have come with a defensive line-up in a bid to stifle the champions.

And while they have overcome that problem in recent matches, defender Bacary Sagna believes that has made life difficult for Pellegrini's players who, he said, remained united in their pursuit of Champions League football.

"I think we've dropped many points this year," said France international Sagna.

"But in some of the games we were maybe unlucky and were in a good position but we couldn't score and it's not easy to play in front of a wall.

"We are doing our best to get back to a winning team and to finish the season well."

 Bony return 

City's cause will be helped on Saturday by the return from injury of striker Wilfried Bony.

The Ivory Coast international, 26, has missed the last three matches with an ankle injury and has started only two games for City since signing from Swansea City for 28 million ($43 million, 37 million euros) during the January transfer window.

Bony has scored just once in seven appearances for his new club but his return will increase the options for Pellegrini, who had only two fit strikers in Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko for last Sunday's 2-0 win over West Ham.

Midfielder David Silva is also fit after allaying fears he broke a cheekbone against the Hammers, although captain Vincent Kompany may miss the rest of the season with a thigh muscle problem and James Milner and Gael Clichy require late fitness checks.

Tim Sherwood, who was on the wrong end of a 5-1 defeat by City last season when he was Tottenham manager, will take his Villa side to Manchester on a high after their 2-1 FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool last weekend.

And Sherwood believes Villa's new-found confidence will serve them well even though they are currently just four points above the relegation zone.

"We certainly have to believe we can go Man City and get something, there is an expectancy among supporters," said the Villa manager.

"I want to make sure that I don't take my foot off pedal. I'll make sure the players don't."

Sherwood will be without defenders Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker but Philippe Senderos and Aly Cissokho are hoping to be fit to return along with forward Gabby Agbonlahor.

Last Sunday saw Jack Grealish emerge after the 19-year-old starred against Liverpool but he blotted his copybook after appearing in a UK national newspaper inhaling nitrous oxide or 'laughing gas', which is legal in Britain but can have dangerous side-effects.

"I'm not pleased obviously, I spoke to Jack first thing this morning as he came in, I explained to him his behaviour can't be tolerated by the football club," said Sherwood.

"It doesn't matter how young he is, he is now in a responsible position as a professional footballer, he's got to make sure it won't happen again, he's assured me it won't."



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