It's sad, really. Aston Villa aren't a "power" team in the Premier League, but they're one of the longest-serving top division sides in England and have long been competitive and interesting. As this season starts to wind down, though, one truth has become evident: they will no longer be in the EPL next season. They'd have to win half their remaining games just to have a chance at climbing out of the relegation zone, and looking at their schedule and how the Villans have been playing, it wouldn't be shocking to see them lose all of them.
The first match up in that parade of sadness is Manchester City, themselves reeling from a shocking 3-0 loss to Liverpool at midweek. They also blasted Villa 4-0 in the FA Cup at the end of January, beating them 4-0 despite running out a combination of backups and kids while Villa started a lineup of almost all first-choice starters. With City coming out with something close to a full-strength lineup and with an ax to grind, one can only imagine how ugly this game could get for Villa.
That's just the way this season has gone for them, really. It's little wonder they're dead last in the league with essentially zero hope of salvation.
Key player -- Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Sterling's form has been a bit mercurial this season, and he was at a decided low point against his old team at midweek. Aston Villa offer him a chance to bounce back in a big way on Saturday, though, because neither Leandro Bacuna nor Alan Hutton are particularly good matchups for him -- Bacuna's one-on-one defending is woeful on a good day, and Hutton simply doesn't have the pace to trouble Sterling much. If City can get the young winger rolling early, he could be in line for a huge day.
Key matchup -- Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) vs. Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa)
While this season has been a giant pile of frustration and misery for Aston Villa fans, they have gotten to enjoy Ayew for most of it. He's been the one shining light in their attack, scoring a few big goals in crucial moments and providing their one steady threat up front. If he's going to find any space and success up front in this game, it's going to come at Otamendi's expense, especially after he was so poor against Liverpool a few days ago. Otamendi has certainly had some tremendous moments in City's defense this season, but he's also consistently been a weak link to exploit, and that could prove troublesome with him matched up against a striker who would be well-suited to knocking him off-balance in Ayew.
Manchester City injuries and suspensions
Out: Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph In doubt: Yaya Toure
Aston Villa injuries and suspensions
Out: Carlos Sanchez, Jordan Amavi, Jack Grealish, Libor Kozak In doubt: Adama Traore
Match Date/Time: Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. local
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
TV: NBCSN (U.S. - English), NBC Universo (U.S. - Spanish), TSN 1, 4, RDS 2 (Canada)
Online: NBC Sports Live Extra (U.S.)