42 min Dias is booked for dissent.
De Bruyne clipped a routine long pass towards Haaland, charging between the two Villa central defenders near the edge of the area. Chambers panicked and stooped to head the ball somewhere, anywhere, but Haaland retrieved it on the right side of the area and rammed a devastating low cross that gave Gundogan a tap-in.
GOAL! Man City 2-0 Aston Villa (Gundogan 39)
Not for the first time this year against Villa, Ilkay Gundogan taps into an empty net at the far post.
38 min De Bruyne’s free-kick is headed wide by Rodri, under a lot pressure from Kamara.
37 min Saying which, Mahrez slips Digne, who legs him up and is booked.
36 min Villa have defended extremely well against a City side who, with the exception of the second half at home to Spurs, are playing as well as they have since the World Cup.
35 min “Since Peter Oh brought it up, I’ve wondered how much attention is paid to the Super Bowl in the UK,” says Joe Pearson. “I mean, a game that starts at 11:30 PM on a Sunday can’t attract that many viewers, right? Will you stay up to watch?”
No, but I’ve never really understood American sports, even though I love the idea of them. I know plenty of people who stay up for it every year, or at least did before we all hit old age. Like barely repressed self-loathing, it’s always been a pretty big thing over here.
33 min Walker plays a poor ball straight to Bailey, 30 yards from goal. He is cleaned out emphatically by Dias, an old-school man-and-ball challenge. The referee allows play to continue, and replays show that, while it was a very strong challenge, it wasn’t a dangerous one.
32 min “Pep is not a genius,” says Jeff Sax. “A genius does not make continual changes to a winning side… And when last did he win the Champions League?”
Jeff, I love you, but trust me: he’s a complete and utter and occasionally maddening genius. Sir Alex Ferguson went about four years without naming an unchanged side, and he was a genius as well.
30 min Rodri, who has been outstanding, releases De Bruyne on the right with a lovely first-time pass. De Bruyne gets to the byline and tries to cut the ball back to Haaland. Konsa does the necessary in the six-yard box.
De Bruyne also looks really sharp today. It’s the FA Charge Bounce!
29 min: Good save from Martinez! De Bruyne marches imperiously across the field from the right, beating Kamara with ease before finding Grealish on the left side of the box. He whips a curling shot across goal that is fingertipped round the post by the flying Martinez. That’s a fine save actually. Grealish, often relatively shot-shy, looks desperate to score today.
28 min “Do you think,” says Richard Hirst, “Pep is playing Rage Against The Machine in the dressing room?”
I assumed this was on loop, or maybe he’s saving it for the next time Daniel Levy calls to discuss European Super League.
27 min De Bruyne’s deep free-kick is headed into a dangerous area by the backpedalling Ramsey. Bernardo Silva’s snapshot is blocked, and there’s another VAR check for handball. No dice.
25 min Villa have done pretty well to stay in the game, because when Rodri scored so early I assumed we’d be in double figures by now.
24 min “Why did Guardiola barely play Dias, his best central defender, and get rid of his best wing-back?” wonders Andrew Hurley. “Freud, if still alive, wd have a field day with his narcissism / need for it always to be about needing to be recognized for how clever he is. As he’s long gone, what is your diagnosis Dr Smyth?”
That’s the thing about geniuses – we all go a little mad sometimes. Har, har, har. In his defence, Dias hasn’t been fully fit since the World Cup.
23 min At the other end, Bailey’s long-range shot deflects wide. By the way, it now looks like Bernardo Silva is playing in the Rico Lewis role at left-back.
21 min: Chance for Haaland! Mahrez’s outswinging corner brushes the head of Dias at the near post and ricochets around the area until Haaland volleys over from six yards. It wasn’t an easy chance – he had to quickly, at an awkward height, and I think a Villa defender may have made contact a split second before Haaland.
20 min: Just wide from Grealish! And almost a spectacular goal. De Bruyne drove the corner flat and hard to Grealish, lurking on the edge of the area at the far post. He twisted his body like an action figure to smack a volley that hit the leaping Chambers and deflected just wide. There’s a VAR check for handball, but no penalty.
20 min After another slick, proper-City move, De Bruyne’s low cross is crucially cut out by Chambers. It’s not quite a battering, but it’s not far off.
17 min “Clearly in the wrong place for any balanced coverage of Manchester City,” weeps Daniel. “How else would fans react to the anthem of a league that told the press about these charges before the club? Cannot wait to see the reactions of so called ‘neutrals’ everywhere when we’re vindicated again.”
I can promise you now, that even if the police wrongfully imprisoned my entire extended family, I still wouldn’t boo the theme tune to Line of Duty.
13 min: Gundogan has a goal disallowed! Ah, Haaland was offside in the build up, that’s why. At first I couldn’t work out what he had done wrong. He ran onto a long pass and was basically slapped about the chops by the outrushing Martinez, with Gundogan putting the loose ball away. But the play was pulled back for offside.
13 min “Today isn’t just any given Sunday but Super Bowl Sunday,” says Peter Oh. “Super Bowl LVII, in fact. I think that’s number 57, but I’m not sure because I rarely use Roman numerals. Just for fun, could you please use Roman numerals in your updates? For example, LXIII min. Erling Haaland completes his hat trick.”
I’m not sure he’s touched the ball yet.
11 min: Fine save from Martinez! City are playing beautifully. Rodri plays a one-two with De Bruyne, marches through midfield and eases a through ball into the path of Gundogan. He opens his body to slide a left-footed shot that hits the outstretched right leg of Martinez and goes just wide of the far post. Terrific save, that.
11 min Villa look quite bright when they do break, Watkins in particular, but they are spending long periods without the ball.
In other news, here’s that Rodri goal.
10 min “This has the makings of a good old-fashioned shellacking,” says Joe Pearson. “Don’t poke the bear, I guess.”
Villa didn’t! I wonder how long it will be before we start talking about teams benefitting from the FA-charge bounce.
8 min City are playing with murderous purpose, and look in the mood not just to beat Villa but humiliate them.
6 min De Bruyne lunges at Bailey in the box, getting nowhere near the ball, and is relieved that Bailey doesn’t accept the invitation to go down.
6 min “I see from the picture that Mr. Neville is wearing at least three layers of black,” says Mac Millings. “Do you think he’s in mourning for the imminent stripping of thousands of trophies from Manchester City’s record? Personally, I can’t wait for the mighty Hornets to be declared the 2018-2019 FA Cup winners, by a score of 0 (nil) – 6.”
I’d love it if Pep, disdain written all over his face, namechecked “Mac Millings” at his next press conference.
What a simple goal. Mahrez curled a left-wing corner towards the near post, where Rodri got the round on Kamara and flicked a powerful downward header that beat the sprawling Martinez at the near post.
GOAL! Man City 1-0 Aston Villa (Rodri 4)
The first of many.
3 min Grealish’s chipped cross is claimed on the stretch by Martinez.
2 min These are the revised line-ups.
Manchester City (3-2-2-3) Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte; Rodri, Bernardo; De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish.
Aston Villa (4-2-2-2) Martinez; Young, Konsa, Chambers, Digne; Kamara, Douglas Luiz; J Ramsey, Buendia; Bailey, Watkins.
1 min Villa win a corner after 20-odd seconds, with Bailey’s errant shot deflecting behind off Laporte.
1 min Villa kick off from right to left as we watch. City are actually playing a 3-2-2-3 formation with a midfield square.
Before the game, the players gather round the centre circle. There’s a minute’s applause for Tudor Thomas, City’s honorary president who died last week at the age of 94.
The players are on the field, and the Premier League anthem is being roundly booed by the home fans. I’m all for a good siege mentality, but grown men (sic) booing an anthem, nah.
“I’m tuning in and hoping for the Villa win that would help Arsenal,” says Shane O’Leary, “but more importantly, tip Pep into full Howard Beale mode.”
Unai Emery speaks
Good afternoon. [Tyrone Mings] has a small injury. He tried but he is not ready for this match. [Calum Chambers] is training every day with very good spirit, he knows how we want to play and he is experienced. He’s ready to play.
Pep Guardiola speaks
We’ve got a lot of games coming up, many away, so everybody is going to play. We need [Ruben Dias], he’s a leader. It’s been a long time because he was injured after the World Cup and it wasn’t easy to recover. We think today is the perfect day for him to come back.
[Is it a back three or a back four?] Back four or five. Seriously, it depends how they attack.
“Pep is raging against the entire world,” says Mary Waltz. “I feel sorry for Villa, I fear they are going to be the victim of Pep’s volcanic anger.”
City scored three in six minutes against Villa on the last day of last season, so I’m expecting at least a 45-0 win today.
City will start the game in third place after late goals from Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho gave Manchester United victory at Elland Road. Tim de Lisle was watching that one.
ITUEYMI, here’s what Pep Guardiola had to say on Friday
Where do we start with that City team? There are four changes, with Ruben Dias (remember him?), Aymeric Laporte (remember him?), Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne replacing Manuel Akanji, Nathan Ake, Rico Lewis and Julian Alvarez.
There are only three regular defenders in the XI, so I’ve no idea what formation they’re playing. LOOK, JUST LEAVE IT.
The funky formation aside, it looks like a serious team, and it’s been a while since Pep Guardiola picked one of those.
Unai Emery makes one change for the Villa side that was plugged 4-2 at home to Leicester last weekend. Calum Chambers replaces the injured Tyrone Mings, and I’ll let you decide who got the better of that deal.
Manchester City (possible 4-1-2-3) Ederson; Walker, Rodri, Dias, Laporte; Gundogan; De Bruyne, Bernardo; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish.
Substitutes: Ortega Moreno, Phillips, Ake, Alvarez, Gomez, Akanji, Foden, Palmer, Lewis.
Aston Villa (possible 4-2-2-2) Martinez; Young, Konsa, Chambers, Digne; Kamara, Douglas Luiz; J Ramsey, Buendia; Bailey, Watkins.
Substitutes: Sinisalo, Zych, Cash, McGinn, Alex Moreno, Coutinho, Dendoncker, Swinkels.
Referee Robert Jones.
Pep, we need to talk.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Manchester City v
the world Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium. After a week of talking about FFP, it’s time to discuss FFF. Fight, flight or flounce: the way City respond to the stress of being charged by the FA will probably decide whether they win the league this season.
Pep Guardiola’s press conference on Friday suggested he was in the mood to stick two fingers and three consecutive titles up at the establishment, and we’ll soon find out whether the players – who have looked unfocussed and a bit sulky since the winter break – are similarly minded.
The next two games, Villa today and Arsenal away on Wednesday, should give us a pretty big clue. If City win both, they’ll be top of the league again.
Kick off 4.30pm