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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Aston Villa: Can we compete with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and United?

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Losing to Spurs midweek in the League Cup was hardly surprising, but losing 4-0 was extremely disappointing.

The fact that Spurs have now put eight passed us at Villa Park in their last two games shows how big the gulf between the two sides has become.

Villa, like many other teams in the Premier League, know that if one of the top six sides turns up and plays, it’s likely to end in defeat. That’s not having a go at the Villa players, it’s merely pointing out they will struggle against most of the top teams this season despite all the early hype – if they turn up.

The money that’s been spent in the Premier League this year has been huge and it’s given the likes of Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United the chance to pull even further clear of the chasing pack.

Villa are pantsThe fact there are still six teams competing at the top separates the Premier League from most other top leagues in the Europe where it’s a battle between two or three clubs each year. But it also means it’s near impossible for any of club to get a look in when it comes to qualifying for Europe – unless it’s via one of the cup competitions.

Both Villa and Spurs put out weakened teams on Tuesday – Villa through necessity and Spurs through a fear of playing too many games – but you’d have to say the visitors second-string side would have given us a good game. When you’ve got Jermain Defoe upfront trying to prove a point to his manager, it’s always going to be difficult.

The beauty of England’s league and cup matches, however, is you can never be completely sure who will win. All the top clubs have slipped up already this season - Arsenal against Villa, of course - and all the lower placed clubs have either picked up scalps or pushed their bigger-spending counterparts all the way.

There is never any rest bite so even though Villa face a huge task against Man City this afternoon, you never know what the outcome could be.

With Benteke out for six weeks, Jores Okore probably out for the entire season and Lowton still trying to make his way back, to name a few, the injury crisis has started early at Villa.

What will be really interesting is how we perform without Benteke. He is a quality player, but he doesn’t always bring that much to the table outside of scoring goals.

Any Villa fan would obviously rather have him in the team than not, but it will be exciting to see what Helenius and Kozak can bring to the table, and whether Villa manager Paul Lambert will try playing them together.

The defence still looks weak, but with injuries there’s not much Lambert can do about that at the moment. I still rate Nathan Baker and I hope he starts with Vlaar.

Marc Albrighton was praised by the manager after getting his long-awaited start against Spurs, so maybe he could be a threat down the wings if given the nod.

The home form is still extremely worrying because in four games in all competitions we have won one, lost three, scored two and conceded six – and one of those was a 1-0 win against Rotherham in the cup.

The difference with Saturday’s game is Man City are likely to attack us, which should help Lambert’s counter-attacking style, something we are still very good at. Of course if Man City turn up and we defend all game, we could be in for a hiding. But the team can’t be blamed for a situation like that because it’s simply a case of them being a lot better than us on paper.

We’ve given City a few good games at Villa Park over the last few years – Darren Bent scoring on his debut springs to mind – so there’s no reason why we can’t surprise the visitors again this weekend.

It all depends on whether Villa’s confidence at home has been badly damaged even at this early stage of the season.

The gulf between the top teams and the rest is there for everyone to see, but Villa can still give them a game on their day. Let’s just hope we don’t roll over against Man City.

Article by James Fisher

Calling all Villa fans: How do you think you will fare against Man City this weekend? Can Villa really mix it with the big boys? What can be done to make the Premier League more of a level playing field? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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