Aston Villa - Manchester City preview: Pellegrini's men aim to maintain good form
Picture source: Jonny Walsh (VAVEL) - Can City maintain their encouraging form of late?

Ahead of their clash on Sunday afternoon, Manchester City are the league leaders. The pace-setters, if you will.

Although, they need to maintain consistency to warrant a fierce challenge for the Premier League title - especially with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and - surprisingly given the circumstances - Leicester City bearing down upon them at the top.

Garde the new man at the helm

Aston Villa meanwhile, have a new manager at the helm. Remi Garde, former player and coach, has a tough task on his hands. His mission: save the Villans from relegation.

It couldn't be a trickier first game than playing against the Citizens, all things considered. Top spot against bottom, you couldn't write this in a script.

City's encouraging form continues in spite of injuries

Even without the influential figures of Sergio Agüero (hamstring) and David Silva (ankle), Manuel Pellegrini's men still pose a deadly threat.

Pablo Zabaleta (knee) and Samir Nasri (hamstring) are the other first-team absentees at the moment for the sky Blues, with Gäel Clichy and Fabian Delph both returning to full training last week.

Excellent display in Europe

Buoyed by their excellent display in midweek against Sevilla, they'll certainly come into the match with confidence. A comfortable away performance in the Champions League is never easy, especially playing against a side who've secured back-to-back Europa League trophies either.

But, they did so. Becoming the first English club to secure their passage into the knockout rounds of the competition this term, City can only hope their encouraging run of form continues - with two of their best players yet to return from injuries they sustained in the previous international break.

Villa have a point to prove

Aston Villa, have a point to prove. Not only to themselves, but also to their new manager, who will certainly appreciate the tough road ahead of him. Defensively, the west Midlands side look out-of-sorts and struggle to deal with teams on the counter-attack.

Attacking-wise, they're having to rely on one or two figures to actually score goals, even though they've got so many talented players who can do respective jobs within the team.

Contrasting form in all departments

Jack Grealish, Jordan Ayew, Scott Sinclair, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Carles Gíl, Adama Traore and Rudy Gestede all spring to mind - but only a few of these players have actually shown their quality on a consistent basis this term.

This needs to change, and soon, if they want to avoid a relegation dogfight. That being said though, you'd naturally expect the firepower within the City side to be too much for them.

Kevin de Bruyne continues to impress following his big-money switch from VfL Wolfsburg, whilst Raheem Sterling has already broken records in Manchester. Nicolas Otámendi has settled into life in England's top flight relatively well, and now it's Fabian Delph's time to shine.

The 25-year-old, former Villa captain, will not be holding his breath for a warm welcome back to his old stomping ground. Not because he wasn't good; on the contrary, he helped drive the team forward both in the League and cup competitions last campaign - but the way in which he left the club this past summer, left a bad taste in their mouths.

Who'll prevail? Time will tell.

Possible starting XI's

Villa: Guzan; Richards, Okore, Hutton, Amavi; Gueye, Veretout; Ayew, Grealish, Sinclair; Gestede.

City: Hart; Sagna, Otámendi, Kompany, Kolarov; Fernando, Fernandinho; Sterling, de Bruyne, Touré; Bony.