BIRMINGHAM (AFP) - Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill expects Manchester City's spending spree to pay dividends with a prized place in the Premier League's top four this season.
City have made an impressive start to the campaign after boss Mark Hughes's 120 million pounds close-season blitz on the transfer market and will look to maintain that form at Villa on Monday.
Hughes brought in the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry and all have made an impact in City's rise to sixth in the Premier League table.
O'Neill recognises that the major investment, backed by the club's Abu Dhabi based owners, has enabled City to overtake Villa as the most likely team to snatch a Champions League spot from the league's 'big-four' and he suspects they could even challenge for the title.
"You can draw comparisons with Chelsea a few years ago," O'Neill said. "They had a talented manager in place (Jose Mourinho) and won two Premier League titles on the bounce.
"They made Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal sit up and take notice.
"Now Manchester City have been able to accumulate players by spending big. In a couple of years time probably some other club will be able to do the same again."
"City are a very big threat to the top four. They are playing with a great deal of confidence and very well. They are a genuine threat to the top four, even as soon as this year.
"I saw them against West Ham last Monday and they played exceptionally well. They are flying and now they have got Adebayor to come back in from suspension.
"I assume he will start because he has played splendidly. He is a very good player.
"I am not sure what happened with Arsenal but he has gone to City and is flying at the minute."
Monday's match also sees City midfielder Barry return to Villa for the first time since his 12 million pounds move to Eastlands in the close-season.
Barry can expect a hostile reception from Villa's fans but Hughes is convinced the move will turn out to be the right one for the player and his new club.
"Gareth was always a player I had admired from afar," Hughes said. "He has a huge range of passing and is able to be constructive and destructive in midfield.
"When you also take into account the amount of quality games he is able to produce over a long period of time, I just felt he was a player we needed to bring to the club."