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Aston Villa has finally returned to action after its COVID-19 outbreak with the arduous task of facing Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side have won their last eight straight games in all competitions, with their last game seeing an impressive 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace this weekend.

Villa’s first team have not played a game since losing to Manchester United on New Year’s Day, a coronavirus outbreak that delayed three games. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Liverpool, but it was a teenage squad with the first team unavailable.

Manchester City v Burnley FC - Premier League
Aston Villa will come to the Etihad Stadium for their first game since the COVID-19 outbreak. | Pool / Getty Images

When is the kick-off? Wednesday January 20
What time is the kick-off? 6:00 p.m. (GMT)
Where is it played? Etihad Stadium
TV channel / live broadcast? BT Sport 1 (UK), fuboTV (US)
Arbitrator? Jonathan moss

The home team has suffered from its own battles against COVID-19, with several stars being stricken with the virus or coming into contact with someone else. Star striker Sergio Aguero will miss the game as he is still in isolation, while Aymeric Laporte, Eric Garcia and Nathan Ake are still injured.

Aston Villa is expected to be back at full power, with Ross Barkley fit and available to make his first appearance since his hamstring injury against Brighton in November. Anwar El-Ghazi should start ahead of Bertrand Traoré on the right wing with Jack Grealish to regain his role as left winger.

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Sterling, Foden.

Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; El Ghazi, Barkley, Grealish; Watkins

Guardiola’s side have quietly pushed into the title race after a difficult start to the season. With John Stones and Ruben Dias on defense, City have conceded just six goals in their last 20 games in all competitions and have started scoring more freely.

John stones
John Stones scored twice in City’s 4-0 win over Crystal Palace | Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Villa is now three weeks without a game, but before the unscheduled break she was in decent form. Excluding the FA Cup match where Under-9s played, Villa have claimed three wins in their last six games, but lost their last game to Man Utd in a close game.

Manchester city

Man city 4-0 Crystal Palace (17/1)
Man city 1-0 Brighton (13/1)
Man city 3-0 Birmingham (10/1)
Man United 0-2 Man city (6/1)
Chelsea 1-3 Man city (3/1)

Aston Villa

Aston Villa 1-4 Liverpool (8/1)
Man United 2-1 Aston Villa (1/1)
Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa (12/28)
Aston Villa 3-0 Crystal Palace (12/26)
West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa (20/12)

It’s hard to predict because we just don’t know which Aston Villa is going to appear. We’ve heard from managers talking about how each player recovers differently from COVID-19, and without knowing which players have been affected, it’s hard to know how they will react.

Raheem sterling
City should have too many for Aston Villa | Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

City, on the other hand, have become incredibly consistent over the past couple of months or so and are finally returning to their best. They now have goals from all over the pitch and are the best defensively they have been at any time during the Guardiola era.

At their best this season the Villas have been fantastic, but City is a different fish than anything they’ve encountered. Dean Smith’s team will fight well, but ultimately they will fall into the best team.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa

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