skip to content
The referee signals the end of the game.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on James Milner by Fabian Delph. Patrick Vieira takes the direct free kick.
James Milner receives a yellow card. James Milner concedes a free kick for a foul on Fabian Delph. Free kick taken by Eric Lichaj.
Handball by Mario Balotelli. Direct free kick taken by Robert Pires.
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Robert Pires from the right by-line, clearance made by Vincent Kompany.
Eric Lichaj takes a shot. Joe Hart makes a save.
Pablo Zabaleta gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nathan Delfouneso. Strike on goal comes in from Stewart Downing from the free kick.
Corner from the left by-line taken by James Milner, save made by Brad Friedel.
Robert Pires joins the action as a substitute, replacing Nigel Reo-Coker. Corner from the right by-line taken by Stewart Downing, Pablo Zabaleta makes a clearance.
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Stewart Downing, clearance by Micah Richards.
Stewart Downing takes the inswinging corner, Mario Balotelli manages to make a clearance.
Fabian Delph takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.
Stewart Downing takes a short corner.
Wayne Bridge is brought on as a substitute for Nigel De Jong.
Fabian Delph challenges James Milner unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Nigel De Jong.
James Milner takes a shot. Blocked by Carlos Cuellar. Corner taken left-footed by Adam Johnson, James Collins makes a clearance.
The ball is sent over by Adam Johnson, Effort on goal by Pablo Zabaleta from just inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
Booking for Eric Lichaj. Unfair challenge on Adam Johnson by Eric Lichaj results in a free kick. Micah Richards takes the direct free kick.
Pablo Zabaleta concedes a free kick for a foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor. Stewart Downing crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing, Vincent Kompany manages to make a clearance.
Corner from the left by-line taken by Adam Johnson, Close range shot by Joao Alves Jo clears the bar.
Patrick Vieira challenges Nigel Reo-Coker unfairly and gives away a free kick. James Collins takes the direct free kick.
Joao Alves Jo replaces Gnegneri Toure Yaya. Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Nathan Delfouneso misses to the right of the target.
(Man City) makes a substitution, with James Milner coming on for David Silva. Stiliyan Petrov gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mario Balotelli. Patrick Vieira restarts play with the free kick.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Eric Lichaj by Mario Balotelli. Free kick taken by Eric Lichaj.
Nathan Delfouneso takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.
Barry Bannan leaves the field to be replaced by Fabian Delph. Nathan Delfouneso replaces Marc Albrighton.
The assist for the goal came from Adam Johnson.
Marc Albrighton challenges Adam Johnson unfairly and gives away a Penalty. Mario Balotelli scores a placed penalty. Man City 4-0 Aston Villa.
Corner taken left-footed by Adam Johnson from the right by-line, clearance made by James Collins.
Patrick Vieira takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel.
Corner taken by Adam Johnson, clearance by Carlos Cuellar.
The offside flag is raised against Gabriel Agbonlahor. Joleon Lescott takes the indirect free kick.
Nigel De Jong concedes a free kick for a foul on Stiliyan Petrov. Strike comes in from Stewart Downing from the free kick.
The second half kicks off.
The whistle is blown to end the first half.
Micah Richards produces a right-footed shot from 35 yards and missed to the left of the goal.
Stephen Warnock has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the right of the target.
Marc Albrighton decides to take a short corner.
Marc Albrighton takes a shot. Save made by Joe Hart.
A cross is delivered by Stewart Downing, Micah Richards manages to make a clearance.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor on Micah Richards. Joe Hart takes the free kick.
Marc Albrighton delivers the ball, save by Joe Hart.
Foul by Mario Balotelli on Nigel Reo-Coker, free kick awarded. Carlos Cuellar takes the direct free kick.
Mario Balotelli is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Brad Friedel restarts play with the free kick.
David Silva challenges Stiliyan Petrov unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stiliyan Petrov restarts play with the free kick.
Adam Johnson produces a cross.
Inswinging corner taken by Adam Johnson, Brad Friedel makes a save.
David Silva takes a shot. Blocked by Eric Lichaj.
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Adam Johnson from the right by-line, James Collins makes a clearance.
Unfair challenge on Adam Johnson by Nigel Reo-Coker results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Nigel De Jong.
David Silva takes a shot. Blocked by James Collins.
Adam Johnson concedes a free kick for a foul on Stephen Warnock. Stephen Warnock restarts play with the free kick.
Unfair challenge on Mario Balotelli by Stiliyan Petrov results in a free kick. David Silva restarts play with the free kick.
Nigel Reo-Coker fouled by Patrick Vieira, the ref awards a free kick. Stiliyan Petrov takes the direct free kick.
Mario Balotelli finds the net with a goal from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Man City 3-0 Aston Villa.David Silva provided the assist for the goal. David Silva takes a shot. Save made by Brad Friedel.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Vincent Kompany by Gabriel Agbonlahor. Joe Hart takes the direct free kick.
Stiliyan Petrov fouled by Mario Balotelli, the ref awards a free kick. Brad Friedel takes the direct free kick.
Stephen Warnock fouled by Micah Richards, the ref awards a free kick. Stiliyan Petrov takes the direct free kick.
The referee shows Stephen Warnock a yellow card. Free kick awarded for a foul by Stephen Warnock on Adam Johnson. Free kick taken by David Silva.
Vincent Kompany gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor. Free kick taken by Stephen Warnock. Adam Johnson concedes a free kick for a foul on Stiliyan Petrov. Strike on goal comes in from Stewart Downing from the free kick.
Joleon Lescott finds the back of the net with a headed goal from close in. Man City 2-0 Aston Villa.Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Adam Johnson, the assist for the goal came from Adam Johnson.
Gnegneri Toure Yaya takes a shot. Carlos Cuellar gets a block in.
Unfair challenge on Micah Richards by Stephen Warnock results in a free kick. Gnegneri Toure Yaya takes the free kick.
Penalty scored by Mario Balotelli. Man City 1-0 Aston Villa.Eric Lichaj concedes a Penalty for a foul on Mario Balotelli.
Mario Balotelli scores a penalty. Man City 1-0 Aston Villa.Eric Lichaj concedes a Penalty for a foul on Mario Balotelli.
Mario Balotelli is caught offside. James Collins takes the free kick.
The match begins.
Barry and Mancini hope to make their mark
Roberto Mancini accepts Manchester City's meeting with Aston Villa holds special significance for Gareth Barry - but he wants it to be memorable for a different reason.
After 10 years' service at Villa Park, Barry quit for City at the start of last season, believing the Blues had more chance of breaking the top-four cartel than the midlands outfit.
The 29-year-old has been proved correct too.
As Villa languish in the wrong half of the table under Gerard Houllier, City are motoring along in second spot, a position they consolidated thanks to an impressive win at Newcastle that Barry set in motion with his first-minute opener.
It is justification for Barry's transfer, which would be further enhanced if City can record a triumph over his former club that would take them top of the table, even if that may only for a couple of hours.
"It will be a special game for Gareth," said Mancini. "I haven't spoken to him about it but probably it will be different because he played for Aston Villa for a long time. That is the nature of football."
For Mancini, the more important factor is that his team should not falter, as they did in a similar situation against Everton last week.
If they do, it would almost certainly end their title challenge, given City will have played three extra game than United at the final whistle.
Indeed, given his side have lost twice at home and dropped unexpected points to Blackburn and Birmingham at Eastlands, Mancini accepts it is probably the area that could do with most improvement.
"We must do better at home," he said. "Last week we were disappointed because if we had beaten Everton, we would have been top on Christmas Day for the first time in 81 years.
"For that reason it was important to restart with a victory. But the season is very long and we must improve again."
Kolo Toure will return from a one-match ban.
Joleon Lescott performed creditably in Toure's absence at Newcastle but it would be a huge surprise if the Ivorian was not handed an instant recall.
Villa winger Marc Albrighton has called on his team-mates to pull together after admitting the club are in "a bit of a mess."
Villa slumped to a fourth defeat in five Barclays Premier League matches with a 2-1 loss against a Tottenham side that played for more than an hour with 10 men.
These are troubled times for Villa and Houllier and it does not get any easier over the next few days with trips to Manchester City and Chelsea awaiting.
With Villa 15th and just four points above the relegation zone, there lurks a very real prospect they could be in the bottom three come their next home game with Sunderland in eight days' time.
Asked if Villa were embroiled in a relegation battle, Albrighton pulled no punches as he said: "We have to look at it and think 'yeah, it is'. The table doesn't lie.
"Against a lot of teams we've played well and created chances, but we've not tucked them away, and we've leaked goals at the back we probably shouldn't have.
"That's why we are down there. If you don't win games then you are going to be down there, and we have to do something about that.
"It's going to be tough to get out of it, but there's nobody who can put that right other than the players.
"We just have to stick together as a group and hopefully we'll pull something out of the bag.
"We've got ourselves in a bit of a mess and we just need to pull together to get ourselves out of it."
Despite his age and inexperience, Albrighton knows he has to look within himself to help Villa, rather than rely on the older heads around him to pull him through such a situation.
"We know we've quality in the dressing room," added Albrighton. "The older players have to play a part, but then there's nobody out there who doesn't deserve to be playing, so everybody on that pitch needs to pull their weight.
"We can't pass responsibility. Every one of us has to take on that responsibility.
"Against Manchester City we just have to pull our socks up and get stuck in again.
"We're going there with not a lot to lose. People are going to be expecting us to get done over, but from our point of view, we are going there to win a football game."
Houllier has doubts over Emile Heskey (ankle), Ashley Young (knee) and Luke Young (groin).
Balotelli hits hat-trick in win
Mario Balotelli hit the headlines for all the right reasons as his first Manchester City hat-trick helped the Blues to a 4-0 win against Aston Villa and top spot in the Barclays Premier League.
With Carlos Tevez rested, the 20-year-old strode confidently onto centre-stage, exhibiting audacious self-belief to score two penalties, either side of a three-yard tap-in which took his City tally to an impressive eight goals in 11 appearances.
On a dank Manchester day, the half-time whistle brought jubilation for the home fans, who were already certain of their fate and total despair for the visiting contingent.
Three wins from 13 matches for Gerard Houllier prior to this debacle could partly be explained away by the chronic injury-list the Frenchman has had to contend with.
The excuse is wearing a bit thin though judging by the boos that greeted Michael Oliver's shrill blast, the second time Villa had reason to thank the 25-year-old rookie referee.
Had Oliver opted to dismiss Eric Lichaj for blatantly pulling down Balotelli as he charged onto David Silva's seventh-minute through-ball, a massacre might well have ensued.
As it was, the penalty proved sufficient, which Balotelli finished nervelessly, walking up to the ball before sending Brad Friedel the wrong way.
If he takes notice of such things, Balotelli would have woken to news of his apparent homesickness being made public knowledge.
Dealing with unhappiness within his squad has almost become a weekly occurrence for Mancini.
But he knew the downsides to Balotelli's combustible character when he brought the 20-year-old to England from Inter Milan and must therefore have been expecting such a problem at some stage.
Last week, Mancini chided the Italy star for not smiling enough.
He didn't get that response from the first goal. He did after Balotelli's second though, which again was created by Silva, who is rivalling the rested Tevez as player of the season.
After exchanging passes with Yaya Toure inside the Villa box, Silva cut inside a couple of weak challenges before aiming a low-curling shot for the far post.
Friedel did get a hand to the ball but could only push it straight to Balotelli, who tapped home, then raced to acknowledge Silva, his happiness made clear in the most appropriate manner.
Had deflections from goalbound shots from Toure and Silva ended up in the net, Villa would have been staring at utter humiliation.
As it was, City only had one more goal to reflect on over their interval cup of tea.
There was more than an element of controversy about it too as Lescott leapt to reach Adam Johnson's corner at the near-post, glancing it to the far, where Barry Bannan headed it away, although not after the assistant referee felt it had crossed the line.
Having got into the smiling habit, Balotelli found he couldn't stop.
Rarely can anyone have exerted so little effort in completing a hat-trick as he hungrily grabbed the ball after Johnson had been sent tumbling by Marc Albrighton.
If anything, the second walk-up was even more leisurely than the first. Too slow indeed for Friedel not to commit himself. Once the American reached the point of no return, Balotelli made him took silly by knocking the ball into the other corner.
This time there was a rueful grin as the Italian acknowledged his achievement before a broader smile as he was embraced by delirious team-mates.
It was the end of the scoring but the difference in class from two sides who at the end of last season were both battling to break into the top four was depressingly evident for Houllier, who has a huge task in front of him to prevent a downward spiral spinning totally out of control.
"Barclays Premier League Predictions - 2012/13"